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Construction of new Whitley County jail met with criticism

WHITLEY COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – Work is set to begin next week on Whitley County’s new Sheriff’s Department and Detention Center– and not without criticism for its location.

It’s planned to be constructed in a commercial park in northwest Columbia City. The jail would share the street with a movie theater, dentist office, senior center, and several other businesses.

The location has drawn scrutiny from residents who argue that a jail will create new safety concerns and will negatively impact nearby businesses and homeowners.

Jail opponents created a website laying out further complaints, and a petition that had nearly 100 signatures by Thursday.

Whitley County Commissioner Theresa Baysinger released a statement saying that a new facility is needed to satisfy orders from the state to alleviate crowding in the County Jail.

Construction will begin the week of March 13th and will last approximately 18-24 months. In 2017, Whitley County was directed from the state to alleviate the extreme overcrowding that the jail was experiencing. The Whitley County jail has been out of compliance since 2012. A new jail must be built to accommodate the rising jail population and to protect the County from law suits and tort claims. The County has been working with Elevatus Architectural firm for the past two years and they have been extremely helpful. They have helped the County design the most cost effective detention center possible while meeting all of the Sheriff’s Department’s needs. The current jail was built in the mid-eighties. The idea of adding another level of cell space was explored, unfortunately office space was the only thing that could be added on to. The benefit of this design is that if needed, two more wings can be added onto it. I hope that never happens. However, thirty years from now if those Commissioners are forced again to add more cell space they will easily be able to, and keep the County out of the unfortunate current situation it is in. The long term benefit is again, protecting the County from lawsuits and tort claims. It also benefits our Sheriff’s Department in alleviating what they deal with on a reoccurring basis with an overcrowded jail.

Commissioner Theresa Baysinger

The construction is expected to last up to two years.

As reported by WANE 15