GREENSBURG — Although no firm decisions were made, community leaders gathered recently at the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the plight of the jail pods purchased early last year to help relieve overcrowding at the local jail.
Greensburg Mayor Josh Marsh, Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter, Decatur County Sheriff Dave Durant, DCSO Chief Deputy Bob Ray, Detention Center Commander Dana Parker, Decatur County Commissioners Nobbe, Koors and Buening, Decatur County Councilman Bill Metz, Maxwell Construction’s Chris Graboski and architect Tony Vie were all on hand for a lunch meeting held to discuss the future of the pods that will be freed up once the new detention center on S. Ireland Street opens.
“I don’t expect to make any decisions today as to what to do with the jail pods and the old jail, but I hope this conversation will help us decide how to go forward at each of our respective public meetings in regard to what happens with those facilities,” Nobbe said. “I think everyone in this room needs to have input, and if we plan to have 20 minute discussions on the first and third Monday’s of the month about this, then everyone needs to be on that calendar.”
Nobbe continued by mentioning the importance of addressing the cost of moving the jail pods and deciding whether to sell the pods or put them to use to address possible overcrowding at the new detention center in the future.
“It might be a good idea to have that information on hand when the state legislators are in town for the legislative update scheduled for February 1st at the REMC,” Nobbe said.
Graboski said to convert the current jail into a male/female segregated, hospital-run rehabilitation center, a feasibility study would have to be conducted after an extensive walk-through of the facility was conducted to examine all aspects of the building, structural, electronic, etc. He continued, explaining that a firm idea of what the county wished the facility to become would be necessary in determining the final cost of such a building remodel.
Nobbe also mentioned the importance of having DCMH CEO Rex McKinney involved in any discussions about converting the current jail into a hospital-run rehabilitation center for jail inmates.
Harter said the value of having the pods at the new jail is the ability to expand if the new detention center became full sooner than expected, and the possible use of the pods as an on-site gender segregated rehabilitation facility until overcrowding was again an issue.
Harter continued, explaining the importance of rehabilitation services to inmates in curbing recidivism.
“It’s always cheaper to do it now rather than later, and I feel more confident about getting rehab out of the pods at the new jail than I do about rehab in the old jail facility,” he said.
Harter finished by saying he preferred having the jail pods moved to the new jail property.
Sheriff Durant agreed with Harter, and noted he is an advocate for rehabilitation at the new facility.
Nobbe was asked where the funding would come from to move the pods to the new jail. He responded saying the the original agreement was for the pods to remain at the old facility for two years after the new jail was opened, and that afterward the bonding process would fund the moves.
“My hope today is to give Chris (Graboski) and Tony (Vie) a direction on what we want to do with the old facility, how much it’s going to cost, and what’s the timeline,” he said.
Nobbe said he prefers finishing the new jail before decisions are made regarding what to do with the pods and the old facility
Sheriff Durant said that because the old jail is outdated, he supports use of the pods at the new facility.
Nobbe said he wants the public to be aware of the process so they will understand the nature of the decisions being made.
Harter expressed concern that in less than a year he expects overcrowding to continue at the new jail, making the pods necessary.
To that end, Graboski said that, per his calculations, with the $700,000 cost of moving the pods to the new facility, the cost of expansion using the pods would be $14,500 per bed. To expand by building on to the new jail facility would cost $55,500 per bed.
Discussion continued until it was decided that now was the time to address these issues rather than “kicking the can down the road” for younger generations.
Nobbe ended the conversation by thanking all for attending and asking Graboski to conduct studies and come up with an estimated cost of all the options discussed.
This is an ongoing story.