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Allen County Council says 'no' to jail funding, Commissioners to inform judge

The Allen County Council effectively stopped the construction of the new Allen County jail Thursday, according to the Allen County Commissioners Chief of Staff Chris Cloud.

After delaying the vote in August on funding for the planning work necessary to start construction, the council voted the funding proposal down by a five to two vote Thursday morning.

“Council, by not funding that, you’ve effectively stopped the jail project,” Cloud said immediately after the vote. “So, we will need to inform the federal court of that. We don’t have any other choice. We have to keep them up to date on any major changes to the project.”

Councilmembers Ken Fries, Kyle Kerley, Bob Armstrong, Paul Lagemann and Josh Hale voted against the measure out of concern the commissioners were going to come back and ask for more money for the jail again and again in the future.

Councilmembers Tom Harris and Don Wyss supported the measure. Harris said he did so because the money had been "discussed, itemized and budgeted."

Harris said the commissioners have other options to get the funding.

“It would be a matter of using other funds possibly to pay for this,” Harris said. The challenge becomes if they use other funds, what are they pulling that from?”

Harris said he expected the Allen County Commissioners and the Allen County Council to meet to discuss those options Thursday afternoon.

In a statement, the commissioners said in part, “(The Allen County Council’s) decision will ultimately cost the taxpayer more money as construction costs in this market are estimated to go up 0.5% each month. On a project this size, that money will add up quickly. We will promptly notify the Federal Court of today’s decision, as it ties our hands and prohibits us from rectifying the unconstitutional conditions for jail inmates and unsafe conditions for county correction officers.”

The next federal status update on compliance with the court order to fix the current Allen County jail’s unconstitutional status is Feb. 13.

Tony Sandleben joined the WBOI News team in September of 2022.