By BRYCE MAYER

North Vernon Plain Dealer & Sun

A public hearing on a proposed new Jennings County Jail and how to pay for it is bound to be stormy.

The Jennings County Council will discuss the jail project and the tax structure to fund it during the session that will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25. The hearing will take place in the Community Building at the Jennings County Fairgrounds facility to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd. The meeting was originally scheduled for Sept 4 but postponed to the later date, according to Auditor Kay Vance.

Last week, North Vernon city officials offered to sell a piece of property to the county for the jail at market value provided the county does not lower the Local Income Tax rate. The county council is considering lowering the LIT tax to offset new taxes proposed to fund the new jail’s construction.

Officials project the cost of the new jail at $28 million, though council members and commissioners are hopeful that price will be closer to $25 million.

The county had previously considered the city site, a 16-acre tract on CR 350N off Fourth Street/CR 75W, until city officials said they only wanted to sell the land for industrial use. City officials changed their mind after learning the county is looking at reducing the LIT, which produces public safety funding for not only the county but also the City of North Vernon and Town of Vernon.

The LIT rate reduction would partly offset the new income taxes proposed to fund the jail, according to the county council. Those tax rates are to be voted on at the Sept. 25 hearing.

Both Dave Woodall of the county council and Matt Sporleder of the board of county commissioners said the county will likely reject North Vernon’s offer because it would involve more expense. The county contracted for appraisals and surveys that were completed the previous week on a 20-acre tract it hopes to purchase for the jail on the east side of North Vernon near Rose Acre Farms. Those costs total $15,000.

“We appreciate the city’s offer, but it wouldn’t be beneficial at all for the county,” said Councilor Dave Woodall. “On top of the money we are already out for the appraisals and survey work, the sewer needed for the jail would have to be upgraded at the city site.”

That sewer upgrade alone would cost $1 million to $2 million, according to expert’s estimates, Woodall and Sporleder noted.

At the east end site, sanitary sewer is already in place that would meet the capacity needs for the proposed jail. A jail at that location would connect to the sewer main that runs from Butlerville and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center to the North Vernon wastewater treatment plant.

County officials declined to disclose the exact location of the jail site, saying they do not want to jeopardize negotiations before a sales agreement is reached.

Indiana counties search for jail overcrowding solutions

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