PRINCETON — After Gibson County Commissioners ended their contract for design of a new jail with American Structurepoint last week, Gibson County Council members voted Tuesday to advertise an additional appropriation of $13,000 from the jail tax fund to pay for a new consultant.
Byron Sanders of Posey County told the council Tuesday morning he’s been talking with county officials since the fall of 2019 about the jail, and has worked as a consultant for Posey and Vanderurgh County jails for several years.
Gibson County is obligated in terms of a U.S. Southern District federal court agreement with the Indiana Civil Liberties Union to correct understaffing and overcrowding issues at the jail here, which was cited in two annual inspection reports as out of compliance.
Commissioners notified the federal court last fall that they planned to build a new jail at a new site, but the county council, concerned that the project is more than the county can afford, notified American Structurepoint in December that they would not pay for further design work.
Commissioners followed up last week by canceling the contract, and Sanders told the council Tuesday that he was asked by Commissioner Warren Fleetwood to look at the project. Sanders said he would charge $75 per hour, estimating the total cost of his services at no more than $13,000.
Sanders estimated it would take about six weeks to review pre-design services already completed and help commissioners develop requests for qualifications for new firms.
“I don’t feel your current existing site was fully vetted,” he told the council. He estimated he could help commissioners get a new firm on board within six weeks.
Sheriff Tim Bottoms confirmed the federal court settlement agreement requires the county to have a facility that meets requirements by January 2023.
Councilman Derek McGraw offered a motion to advertise an additional appropriation of $13,000 from the jail tax fund, which was supported by Councilman Mike Stilwell. Members voted 6-0 in support of the motion.
Commissioners will decide whether to enter a contract with Sanders. Tuesday’s action by the council is the first step in assuring the funds are available to pay him.
Second Solar Project
During Tuesday’s first meeting of the year, the council learned that Tenaska is developing a second solar energy project in Gibson County and expects to bring a proposal to the council in February.
• As they organized for the new year, members elected Jeremy Overton as president and Craig Pflug as vice president.
• Overton appointed councilman Dan Beard to the Gibson County Chamber of Commerce, county safety committee and E-911 board; McGraw to the Community Corrections Board, Gibson County Economic Development Corporation and Gibson County Development; Pflug to the Gibson County Solid Waste board and finance committee; Councilman Jay Riley to the finance committee and sheriff’s pension board; Councilman Bill McConnell to the Evansville Urban Transportation System board; Councilman Mike Stilwell to the Regional Economic Development Commission and Gibson County Advisory Planning Commission; and himself to the finance committee and sheriff’s pension board.
• Phil Young and Bruce McIntosh were reappointed to the Gibson County Redevelopment Commission, and Chris Wallace was appointed to the Fort Branch-Johnson Township Library board.
• The council voted to advertise an additional appropriation of $2,320 from the general fund to pay Landmark Engineering for architect fees, but not to incur any further expenses for now, regarding a proposed building that could combine the ambulance service in Princeton and storage for COVID-related personal protective equipment for the health department. Gibson County Emergency Management Agency Director Terry Hedges said the proposal is to use COVID-19 funds to build the facility, estimated at $450,000 or less.
“I like the concept,” said Overton, “...but I don’t want to go too far down the road.”
Hedge said the proposed building would be on property the county already owns. He said other counties have proposed similar facilities for use of COVID-19 funds.
The county has an annual lease contract with Deaconess-Gibson Hospital for the ambulance base in Princeton.
• The council agreed to advertise an appropriation of $13,728 to pay for a part time billing clerk at the Gibson County Emergency Medical Service. The position was requested in summer budgeting, but cut out of the final budget. EMS Director David Pond asked that the funds be restored.
• Gibson Circuit Judge Jeffrey Meade reported final specifications could be ready for the courthouse security project next week. He said plans for the combined Gibson County Probation, Pre-trial Services and Public Defender offices on the North Main Annex property are near completion.
• Council members agreed to advertise additional appropriations of $10,000 for Gibson Circuit and for Gibson Superior Courts for overtime pay, and agreed to advertise an additional appropriation of $6,500 to bring the Pretrial Services Director’s salary from $42,243 to $48,628 per year, which Judge Robert Krieg said is the level a probation officer earns. Krieg said the Indiana Supreme Court considers the pre-trial service duties the same as probation duties. He said while probation handles post-sentencing issues, the new Pretrial Services Office handles everyone who is arrested.
• The council approved paying a $78,266.15 invoice from Kahn Dees Donovan and Kahn for legal services related to the county’s zoning work in 2020. The money will be paid out of the $105,000 allocated in the Gibson County Commissioners’ EDIT Fund budget appropriated for the Gibson County Advisory Planning Commission.
• The council approved advertising a $605,000 additional appropriation from the county’s cumulative building fund for the courthouse security project. The fund has a balance of more than $2 million.
• Gibson County Clerk Jim Morrow’s request advertise an additional appropriation of $13,000 for the court records perpetuation fund. His deputy, Georgia Straw, said the funds would pay for a part time person to scan records for a year.