FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Allen County Council has scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 20 on a local income tax for the Allen County Jail, the same day as the council’s regular monthly meeting.
The council’s monthly meeting is at 8:30 a.m. the following day on September 21st. The public hearing is set for 7 p.m., council president Tom Harris told WANE 15 Friday.
“A number of council members pushed for an evening meeting so that the public could have the ability to attend and I’m glad we were able to find a time that will allow for that to happen,” said Kyle Kerley, County Councilman.
While the council could vote on the proposed .02% Jail LIT, as it’s called, a vote wouldn’t be necessary.
“It is a public hearing. It’s not required. I am anticipating only public input,” Harris said.
Building a new county jail has been deemed necessary by the Allen County Commissioners, the Allen County Sheriff and other local officials after a federal judge sided with the Indiana ACLU and inmates in March 2022 in a lawsuit claiming inhumane conditions.
The existing jail at the corner of Clinton and Superior streets downtown is outdated, and in 2022 was deemed “too far gone” to repair.
Since last year, the commissioners have purchased a site at 2911 Meyer Road, hired an architect and construction manager, but do not have the power to bond or collect taxes to build the 1,100 inmate jail with a modern medical facility.
The County Council voted down the Jail LIT in July and made no progress last month. But with the next status hearing with federal judge Damon R. Leichty set for Sept. 29 and the judge indicating that he wants to hold the council responsible as well as other entities, financing is crucial to make progress.
Commissioner Nelson Peters said Friday at the commissioners’ weekly legislative meeting that the commissioners have done everything the judge required and it was up to the council to make the next move.
“I take some comfort in the fact that the commissioners will not be the ones the judge will be wagging his finger at,” Peters said at the end of the meeting when answering questions on the Jail LIT.
The local income tax was created by the state legislature a few years ago as a separate tax that can be levied by counties to cover costs associated with correctional or rehabilitation facilities.