Community sounds off in fierce debate over fate of Scott County - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Community sounds off in fierce debate over fate of Scott County jail

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The jail in Scott County, Indiana, is plagued with problems ranging from overcrowding to health and safety concerns -- but even though the state is demanding a fix, there is a furious debate about how it will be paid for.

Neighbors were packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a special joint session of the Scott County Council and County Commission Wednesday, with the community's tax dollars at stake. At issue was the condition of the overcrowded county jail.

"It's 32 years old, and worn out," said an architect present at the meeting.

"It does not meet state jail standards," added Scott County Commissioner Robert Tobias.

The dilemma is whether the county should just renovate the old jail or build a brand new one. 

"You got airflow and electrical, all the sewer lines have problems with them, and drainage, so you're looking at plumbing and HVAC -- all of it," Tobias said.  

"Nobody has called a repair guy, a contractor, just to do the repairs," said Eric Gillespie of the Scott County Council. "I think that we can get that done incrementally and make it work because the jail is being used right now, and it's going to be used tomorrow, and it's going to continue to be used."

Commissioners oversee the jail and are urging the county to build a new building -- but the council controls the funding. The project's estimated cost runs around $5.5 million.

Many in the crowd of concerned citizens say the money could be used in better ways. 

"We can invest in a football program, or other things that give people hope," said Dr. Shane Avery, a taxpayer in attendance at the meeting. 

Part of this contention stems from the fact that Scott County just spent $11 million five years ago on a major project, but this new addition ran so far over budget that there was no money left to renovate the old jail as planned. 

"We're asking they consider all the options," said taxpayer Justin Stevens. "If we're talking about a renovation but we don't have a detailed list of what needs to happen and how much it's going to cost, let's start there first."

A vote squeaked by 4-3. The council agreed to at least hire a financial consultant to offer options on how best to to fix and fund the jail problems. 

"I'm hopeful they will listen to their constituents and make the right decision at the end of the day," Stevens said. 

The council will meet again on July 18.

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