ANDERSON — There will be no regional jail constructed by Madison and Henry counties.
The Madison County Council on Tuesday voted to end discussions with Henry County on exploring the possibility of a regional facility to house inmates from both counties.
“We decided it’s not the right fit for Madison County,” Councilman Steve Sumner, who headed up a committee, said.
Council President Anthony Emery said officials have to notify Henry County there is no interest in going forward with the concept.
The council did vote to recommend to the Madison County Board of Commissioners that the process be started for a feasibility study for a new jail.
Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said he was not opposed to the concept of a regional jail, but from the start of the discussions indicated it would have to be built in Anderson.
“I was not assured it would have been done correctly,” he said of the concept.
Mellinger said he visited a regional jail in northwestern Ohio that serves a five-county area. The state of Ohio provided a $10 million grant toward the project.
“They did it right,” he said. “Each county pays a $73 per diem for each inmate and pays for the anticipated number of inmates at the start of the year.”
Mellinger said the per diem in Ohio pays for the building costs, staffing and medical care for the inmates.
A regional jail for Madison and Henry counties would have to house 500 inmates, he said, adding that any of the beds that were not filled could be rented to other counties, the state and federal government.
“There are several jails being built in Indiana,” Mellinger said. “We don’t want to wait too long before starting the process.”
He said if the Ohio regional jail model was used locally it would mean that Henry County would have to agree to pay for a set number of beds at the per diem rate at the start of each year, whether the beds are used or not.
Several council members expressed a concern about the increased staffing requirements for a 500-bed facility. The current jail was built for 207 inmates.
Tim Westerfield, Madison County administrator, said if the new jail is constructed correctly with proper surveillance equipment the county might not have to hire many additional jail officers.
He said there were several ways to finance a new jail at an estimated cost of $50 million.
Mellinger said he was encouraged that both the council and commissioners were moving forward with a feasibility study.
Councilman Jerry Alexander proposed the construction of a substance abuse facility that could alleviate jail overcrowding until a new facility is constructed.
“That could be built first anywhere in the county,” he said.