- November 9, 2021
- Posted by: bondry
- Category: Media Coverage
County elected officials will move forward with a $29 million expansion to the Knox County Jail, including a new site for its community corrections program.
Members of the county council met in special session Monday morning at the Pantheon, 428 Main St., to discuss financing for the proposed jail expansion, and after nearly two hours of talks, opted to move forward with financing just over $29 million for a slightly scaled-back design, a move likely made possible by taking as much as $3 million from the county’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The council heard first from Lara Dawson, an architect with Vincennes’ RQAW, on cuts that had been made in recent weeks from the originally-proposed $32 million jail expansion and adjacent community corrections facility.
Gutierrez encouraged the council to consider using up to $3 million of the county’s estimated $7 million in ARPA funds to shore up the project; that federal money, meant to bolster communities through the lingering effects of COVID-19, can’t be spent on new construction, but it could used specifically on the jail expansion since it’s considered to be a renovation, allowing other dollars to flow toward community corrections.
And while, since time is of the essence, the council did opt to move in that direction, another option may, too, be possible. There is currently a discrepancy in an existing state law; jail projects can be financed out 22 years, but bond sales can be taken out to 25. Council president Bob Lechner said he has talked with local representatives in the General Assembly who are eager to repair the error, but that isn’t likely to happen until spring.
The county, in order to both secure a lower interest rate and to beat ever-increasing construction costs, plans to take the project out for bid in late January. “I’m not trying to pressure anybody into doing anything,” Gutierrez said, “but financially…”
“It’s good,” finished councilman Harry Nolting.
But being able to finance the project out 25 years, too, would make up the necessary $3 million shortfall. Either way, county council members seemed confident in funding the full $29 million project.