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County commissioners plan for courthouse, jail alterations

By Bethany Nolan
331-4373 |

The county’s justice system might be getting a little breathing room.

On Friday morning, the Monroe County Commissioners approved a $31,600 contract with local architect Christine Matheu to help them figure out if
space in the Curry Building is workable for the probation department and, if so, what it would cost to move the office there.

The move would alleviate a space crunch at the Justice Building. With the addition of a ninth court earlier this year, Monroe County justice officials
don’t have enough courtrooms to handle the daily docket of hearings and trials. If probation moves to the nearby Curry Building, the space where that
office is now in the Justice Building could be turned into courtrooms.

The county’s space needs committee met earlier this week and recommended Matheu for the work, county attorney Bill Steger said.

Matheu will create draft schematic designs for the Curry Building work, and check on electrical, plumbing and other mechanical issues with the
building to ensure it would be up to code and handicapped-accessible, Steger said.

“Basically, we’re getting preliminary architectural drawings and some preliminary cost estimates,” he said. “

The commissioners actually approved a larger contract with Matheu that includes additional steps such as design development, but Steger said each
step requires permission from the commissioners before work would begin.

“I’m glad we’re finally moving ahead with this,” commissioner Iris Kiesling said. “This building is only partly occupied and I’ve been frustrated we’re not
using the space as best we can.”

Jail work bids

The commissioners also opened five bids for the second phase of renovation work at the Monroe County Jail. The first phase of work began Monday,
with Building Associates Inc. double-bunking some areas to add 74 beds. That work should be finished by May, jail commander Bill Wilson said.

The second phase of work will include adding showers to seven housing areas and building a dorm and detox area for female inmates, and is
scheduled for completion by the end of this year. Bids included a base price, plus two alternates for the dorm and detox area. Companies that bid and
their total bids are:

• Building Associates Inc. of Bloomington: $817,600

• CDI Inc. of Terre Haute: $741,700

• Tri-County Builders Co. Inc. of Bedford: $704,000

• Strauser Construction of Bloomington: $671,000

• 3D Professional Contracting of Indianapolis: $648,500

The commissioners expect to choose one at their March 28 meeting.

The work will help alleviate crowding at the jail. Officials have discussed building a new jail and sheriff’s department facility on 85 acres the county
owns just off South Rogers Street and, while a plethora of officials have said they support such a plan, no decision has been made. The long-standing
issue was recently raised again when the ACLU sued on behalf of an inmate who cited “unconstitutional and unlawful conditions” at the jail. That suit is
still pending in federal court.

Tax bills delayed?

Monroe County Treasurer Barbara Clark said Friday she believes tax bills will go out late this spring. She said she’s learned the state Department of
Local Government Finance will require counties to send out a special statement, called a Property Tax Comparison Statement (TS-1), to all taxpayers
that shows a comparison between last year’s property taxes and the current year’s costs.

“They just gave us a new (form) last year. If they do it again, it will hold us up sending out tax statements,” Clark said. “Right now, it looks like another
July collection. We don’t like it, but our hands are tied.”

DLGF spokeswoman Mary Jane Michalak said the legislation requiring the comparison bills was enacted in 2006, and will require a standardized bill
across the state. However, language in House Bill 1001 — passed Friday afternoon — says that counties do not have to use the new comparison
statement this year.

According to Michalak, county governments can begin using them in 2009. She said, however, that eschewing the new forms won’t be a factor in
getting tax bills out more quickly because most of Indiana’s counties have not turned in certified assessed values on taxable land.