"Something has to be done..." Vermillion County Jail project paused; but updates are needed

The Vermillion County Jail has been overcrowded and out of date for quite some time now. The Sheriff was working to get updates, but now, with COVID-19 things have changed.

Posted: Apr 28, 2020 9:43 PM
Updated: Apr 29, 2020 9:32 AM

VERMILLION COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) -- All around the country things have been put on a pause since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Vermillion County Sheriff Mike Phelps said their big jail project hasn't been talked about since the last county meeting. But, he said right now he has to make some upgrades within the jail.

"We're living in some different times right now," Phelps said.

Before COVID-19 hit he was working on upgrading his jail. That was going to either be with an expansion or a new site for the jail and Sheriff's office. Either way, he said the jail would need upgrades.

"I know something has to be done I know work has to be done on this facility," he said. 

Because of the pandemic councils can not really meet to discuss the project. So, it's been put on pause. But, the facility needs updates and because of the virus, it is actually getting some.

"Maybe it took this situation right here to find out maybe things are going to be different and we don't have to spend that money," Phelps said.

Right now, he's adding a medical-grade air system to help sanitize the air. As well as fixing some major plumbing issues. Things Phelps said have been on the agenda to do.

He was waiting for the County Council and Commissioners to make a decision on the expansion or new site, but now, he said, it's necessary. 

"I didn't want to throw a bunch of money in this facility and then find out well yeah we're going to go ahead and do the add on and renovation," he said. "Then you're going, are you out this money now. But I can't just keep pushing it off anymore either."

Phelps said since they have let low-level, non-violent offenders out on bond or probation they are seeing very low numbers in their jail. Meaning, right now, there is no overcrowding. But, he said he still has over 100 warrants to serve and doesn't think those numbers will stay low forever.

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