By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
A study group has decided to begin the process of construction of a new jail facility in Tipton County.
The Tipton Jail Study Group voted Monday to start gathering information on the needs, size, location and possible combining of the Tipton City Police Department and Tipton County Sheriff’s Department in the same facility.
Five subcommittees will be formed to consider: The size of a new facility; location; funding and cost; future use for the existing facility; and city and county collaboration. The Jail Study Group is co-chaired by Tipton Circuit Court Judge Tom Lett and Dick Klein.
Tipton County Councilman James Powell told council members Tuesday that the study group determined there is a need for funding to obtain assistance from consultants on the proposed jail project.
He said the study group would probably be requesting $10,000 from the county, but it was not sure of the actual costs involved.
“There are 35 people on the study group,” Powell said, “there were a lot of different opinions.”
Commissioner Joe VanBibber, who is overseeing the group for the Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday he is pleased with the progress being made by the study group.
“I’m pleased with the cooperation and enthusiasm we’ve had for the project,” he said. “This is a big project for Tipton County.”
When appointed in January, the group was tasked with looking at the entire project to include renovations to the courthouse and existing jail or if there is a need to construct a new jail. The group was also be asked to determine if there is support among county residents to pay for the project.
Last year consultants recommended construction of a new 100-bed jail facility for Tipton County. The consultants estimated the cost at between $7 million and $11 million. The consultants said it would be difficult to expand the existing jail because of its current location.
The existing jail has bed space for 27 inmates and the average daily inmate population is 40.
The consultants also recommended $3.5 million in renovation work to the courthouse, including a new elevator, rest rooms on the third floor and the moving of several offices to increase storage space in the building. The Jail Study Group decided not to address the courthouse renovation project.
“The courthouse will be on the agenda at some time,” VanBibber said. “This group didn’t want to tackle the courthouse as the same time as the jail issue.”
Lester Shepler Jr., with PMSI Inc., said last year building a new facility could save the county approximately $400,000 per year because eight additional correctional officers would not have to be hired.
Shepler said of the five locations the consultants looked at they favored the former FMC plant on Dearborn Street and the property on Jefferson Street, formerly used by Pioneer Seed.
He said the county would have to purchase five to seven acres for a new jail facility to allow for parking and future expansion needs.
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