New Allen County Jail: Who will pay?

Proposed new Allen County jail location along Meyer Road.
Proposed new Allen County jail location along Meyer Road.(WPTA)
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 10:58 AM EDT
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ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA) - The Allen County Board of Commissioners presented an update on the progress of building a new Allen County Jail to the Allen County Council Thursday morning.

The county closed on the purchase of 140 acres of land on Meyer Road on April 14, 2023. Commissioners say the location is secure and the construction team is now in place.

BACKGROUND: Committee recommends Weigand Construction to build new Allen County Jail

“The logical question I’m sure you have today is, ‘So what now?’ Well, now comes probably the most difficult part of all, determining how best to pay for this project,” Commissioner Therese Brown said during her presentation to County Council.

Brown explained that last August, a financial consultant made a presentation explaining how to fund a large public construction project like a new jail. That presentation included the impact on taxpayers if property or income taxes are used to fund the project.

“We believed then and we believe now that income tax is the best of the two options,” Brown said. ”In 2018, the State of Indiana began permitting county councils to adopt a Special Purpose Income Tax for construction and operation of a correctional facility.”

Commissioner Brown says the financial consultant’s analysis determined adopting a maxim rate of .2 this year would allow them to issue $286 million of bonds in late 2023.

The Board of Commissioners then requested the County Council consider holding a public hearing on adopting the tax rate during the council’s meeting in June, which would be the first step in the process.

The next step would be for the County Council to hold a vote. The commissioners did not ask for the council to make a final decision on holding the meeting during Thursday’s meeting.

“Steps like these need to be undertaken even as we work to refine the scope and hopefully reduce the cost of this project,” Brown said.

County Councilman Paul Lagemann told the commissioners he recently took a tour of the current Allen County Jail in downtown Fort Wayne. 

“It reiterated my concern for the safety of our confinement officers and certainty for the safety of the inmates,” he said. “That facility has long since passed its lifetime.”

Lagemann said the council will look at ways to bring down the cost from the initial estimate of $350 million for the project to a number closer to $250 million.

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