Debate over Porter County Jail funding underway

2013-10-02T13:30:00Z 2013-10-03T12:18:06Z Debate over Porter County Jail funding underwayBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
October 02, 2013 1:30 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Porter County is operating the seventh largest jail in the state, yet 22 other counties have a larger jail staff, said Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs.

Biggs, R-1st, gathered the statistics in preparation for what promises to be a lively debate Thursday night over the proposal to hire nine new employees to open the third pod to relieve overcrowding at the 11-year-old jail.

"We are going to have to do something we don't want to do," Biggs said of the need to find the additional funding.

While other county officials agree on the need to relieve overcrowding — in the wake of recommendations from a federal study and the recent threatening letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana — there is disagreement over how the additional jailers should be funded.

Biggs said considering there is not enough property tax money to cover the additional $450,000 needed for the new jailers, the county is going to have to commit to an ongoing draw from income tax revenues. That move, he said, would require approval from the county commissioners.

The commissioners have offered $2 million in income tax revenue to cover increased medical costs for inmates and the bill for E-911, but that was from reserve funds and not an ongoing commitment, he said.

Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said the commissioners receive between $3.7 million and $3.9 million each year in income tax revenue and direct $1 million each for drainage projects and road paving.

Adding the new jail staff to the annual bill would cut too much into remaining funds needed for other projects around the county, she said.

"We're trying to take care of the issues in the county," she said. "We could help to a point, but that is a lot of money."

Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain defended his request for new jailers as a necessity.

"This isn't something we want to do," he said. "If I could open up B (third pod) with fewer people, I would."

He voiced hope the council would not follow through on suggestions of funding the new jailers at the expense of others in his department. It has been suggested that merit pay could be in jeopardy, as well as take-home squad cars, though Lain said the latter move would be up to the commissioners and not council.

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