By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
---- — TIPTON — Tipton County officials are reducing the size of a proposed new jail from 100 beds to a maximum of 75.
Tipton County has applied for an assessment of the jail and juvenile system through the National Institute of Corrections, at no cost to county taxpayers.
Officials are working on developing plans for a new jail to replace the existing facility, which was built in 1895 and remodeled in 1983.
Four county officials attended a workshop in Colorado through the federal Training and Law Enforcement Act to learn how to plan for a new facility.
A study done earlier this year recommended a 100-bed facility at a cost of up to $14 million, but officials questioned the need for such a large jail.
The current jail holds 27 inmates.
Commissioner Joe VanBibber said it’s important to have a plan in place. He said Tipton County is ahead of other communities because it already has a citizen committee addressing the issues surrounding the possible construction of a new jail.
“They stressed community involvement,” VanBibber said. “The committee should be able to make a case to the community for a new facility.”
Sheriff John Moses said federal officials stressed not to overbuild the facility.
“We don’t need 96 beds in the jail,” he said. “We’re looking at 50 or 60 beds and to lay the groundwork for future expansion.”
The estimated cost of a 60-bed facility is $6 million.
Moses said the maximum number of cells would be 75.
Training for correctional officers and other law enforcement officers and a need for a transition team to coordinate the move to a new facility will increase associated costs.
“The public knows there is a need,” Moses said. A recent tour of the facility attracted 125 people.
Moses said key decisions involve a site, a design and selecting a company experienced in building jails.
Matt Deckard, jail commander, said the new jail will need facilities for laundry and storage, but not 100 beds.
“There are decisions to be made and a lot of money to be spent,” he said. “I believe there is a need.”
Deckard said the jail has to be large enough that prisoners can be separated dependent on the level of crime committed.
“Right now we have no way to separate inmates,” he said. “We have seven female inmates which is limiting the use of cellblocks because they can’t be housed with male inmates.”
Deckard said until six years ago Howard County housed the county’s female inmates.
James Powell, a member of the Tipton County Council, said the county has to have a great plan before moving forward.
“We need a basic idea of what is needed before hiring an architect,” he said. “The sheriff and jail commander have to lead the effort.”
Powell said federal officials didn’t provide any good ideas on how to fund the project.
He said the funds will have to come through an increase in property taxes or the county’s income tax.
A subcommittee of the jail study committee is preparing to recommend that the Tipton City Police Department be relocated to the new facility. Its current station is not large enough for all police operations.
“Consolidation is happening in more communities,” Powell said. “There will be some savings.”
Committee members are available to address civic groups on the jail discussions.