FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — On Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Citizens Square, Allen County Council hosted a public hearing on the proposed .2% local income tax (LIT) that would be levied over a 20-year time period and go toward funding a new county jail.

A federal judge last year ruled that conditions at the Allen County Jail violated inmates’ constitutional rights, leaving officials two options: either overhaul the current facility located in the downtown area or build an entirely new jail.

County officials have chosen the latter, and Allen County Commissioners proposed the LIT as a way to help fund the construction of a new jail.

An initial vote on that tax, though, was rejected at County Council’s July meeting in a 4-2 vote. County Council President Tom Harris said he doesn’t expect any vote Wednesday night because it’s a public hearing, which is required before another council vote on the tax can take place.

Also, Harris told WANE 15 there will not be a vote on the LIT Thursday because County Council still had questions about the proposal.

“[The Allen County Commissioners] are pulling that information and getting back to us. We just don’t have that information yet, so we decided to hold off on that vote,” Harris told WANE 15 Wednesday morning.

Prior to the meeting, Harris said County Council would vote on the LIT in the future; however, an official date is “undefined at this point.”

The questions County Council had are what caused the vote on the Jail LIT to flop during a meeting in July, Harris said.

Renderings of what could end up being the new Allen County Jail should county officials find the financing.

Those questions include the cost and scope of the project, the timeline and some of the different decisions on the financing that the council will have to consider, Harris said.

“Upon having a hearing this evening, we’ll be able to pick a date in the future to be able to vote on this. That’s undefined at this point. We’ve not set a date for that,” Harris said prior to the meeting.

County Council has been asked to adopt the .2% rate, but that rate could change, Harris said.

“That’s been the number told to us to best meet the needs of a growing community like ours,” Harris said. “Council is considering the .2 rate or can we drop that a little bit, but at this time we’re still trying to gather that information to make that determination.”

The existing Allen County Jail downtown could be taken over by a federal master if numbers don't go down.
Conditions at the existing Allen County Jail have been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge.

Harris has been requested to attend the next federal status hearing Oct. 11 and said he intends to be there.

How jail bonding works

As the matter stands right now, the jail is estimated to cost around $300 million, Commissioners Nelson Peters and Richard Beck told WANE 15 Wednesday. To build a jail that meets the requirements of the federal judge, the commissioners believe the Jail LIT needs to be at that rate.

Harris said the Jail LIT, as proposed, would raise about $20 million or more each year and, if the rate is lowered to .019, for example, the county might have to “pay more down,” because the bond would be less.

Allen County has about $50 million cash on hand and Harris’ suggestion is that soft costs be taken from that pot, leaving the bond to pay for the actual construction of the jail.