Vanderburgh County leaders butt heads on jail funding

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Vanderburgh County leaders are butting heads over $1 million allotted for a jail expansion. The Commission is stomping on the gas pedal, while Council taps the brakes.

It was buried in the County Council’s agenda as a single line item during Wednesday’s meeting; money to hire an architect for the proposed jail expansion that would swell the current jail from 500 beds to more than 1,000.

The single request turned into a single sticking point for some council members and Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave.

Sheriff Dave Wedding and commissioners have worked on a plan to expand the overcrowded jail for years. They’ve had meetings and have an idea, and now Musgrave thinks it’s time to turn concept to blueprint.

Musgrave wants to plant the seed that’ll lead to concrete plans. She thinks the garden is ready, however the money won’t rain yet.

“I don’t know there’s any harm with allowing a little more time,” said councilman James Raben. He wants to digest the concept before committing a million bucks to craft plans. He fears a rushed decision will lead to re-doing plans down the road.

Council seemed to be on board with expanding, but not with numbers to get there.

“All the concerns they raised, we could have been working through,” Musgrave said after the council meeting.

It is estimated the expansion will cost the Vanderburgh County $40 million and County Council is responsible for finding and approving that cash.

“Once we get all our numbers put together, we’ll have a clearer vision on what restrictions we ought to have,” said Councilman Tom Shetler, Jr. to Musgrave.

Council decided to wait a month and revisit the million-dollar request. They plan to reconsider at their next meeting.

Musgrave told council she gave them a timeline weeks ago. “You’re delaying it in order to get an answer you can only get if you move forward,” Musgrave said.

Even without their money, the Commission plans to plant the seed in hopes of better weather.

“We’ll move forward with every aspect of the timeline, hoping that council takes the action that’s required,” Musgrave said. “I’m puzzled by their lack of partnership.”

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(This story was originally published August 1, 2018)

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