A federal judge on Tuesday said Vigo County must have a site for its new jail selected by mid-May.

Additionally, U.S. Chief District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson now expects a monthly status report on conditions at the jail due on the 30th of each month, beginning with this month.

Those reports are to outline items such as inmate counts, recreational times as well as any altercations, the judge said during a hearing Tuesday in Indianapolis. 

County Attorney Michael Wright told the court the jail is now being designed for 504 beds with 140,000 square feet.

After the hearing, Wright said “hard” construction costs could total up to $50 million with “soft” costs such as bond-related expenses and furniture and equipment adding up to an additional 25 percent, or around $60 million.

With long-term financing included, the cost is projected at about $98 million, he said.

David P. Friedrich, another attorney for the county, said the county is looking at three sites to be appraised following a Vigo County Council meeting earlier this month. Friedrich said a former golf course and a site at Indiana 63 and Prairieton Road remain the top two sites.

A third location, a parking lot that had housed Thompson Honda, Friedrich said, was also being appraised, but he told the court that location has not had environmental testing and would likely not be a site in which the county could move forward on by May.

Friedrich said two appraisals have been made and he expects all appraisals to be completed by April 8. Friedrich told the court that commissioners then expect to make offers and sign a purchase agreement within 48 hours of the appraisals.

The commissioners would then need to return to the Vigo County Council for the funds to purchase the land. Once land is obtained, it will take 90 to 180 days for the jail design to be completed. Groundbreaking could come in September or October, Friedrich said. 

Kenneth J. Falk, an attorney for the inmates and lead attorney for the ACLU of Indiana, told the court progress must be made as construction will take 2 to 2 1/2 years and, all the while, inmates remain in a jail where the conditions violate constitutional standards.

“We will feel better when there is a site selected,” Falk said after the court hearing. “Certainly, the judge made it quite clear that she expects there to be a site selected by May, so I assume there will be, but we will have to wait to make sure that happens,” Falk said.

“The clock leading to a new jail doesn’t start until there is a site selected,” he said.

Falk said he believes the sheriff understands the conditions at the jail.

However, he said, “I am not sure that the people in the political process in Vigo County, who have not been in the jail every day, understand how bad it is or understand what it means for a federal judge to say you have an ongoing unconstitutional facility where you are housing people ... [whose] constitutional rights are being violated every day.”

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