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Council approves $245k in appropriations, transfers

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

The Wabash County Council approved the appropriation of over $245,000 during their final meeting of 2018 on Monday.

Funds transferred during the County Council meeting were requested to help cover salaries in Wabash County Court offices. County Auditor Marcie Shepherd said she meant to request the funds earlier in the year after the 2018 salary ordinance was approved with increases to some salaries in the courthouse.

She said money could not have been requested for appropriation at the time, because it would have appropriated funds to the 2017 budget, and so the request was pushed off. It wasn’t until the account recently went negative that she realized the request still needed to be brought before the council, she said Monday. The funds requested by Shepherd came close to $8,000.

Nearly $7,000 was also approved to assist the coroner’s office with purchasing new equipment, such as a new table that was damaged in the move from the former Parkview Wabash Hospital office location.

Wabash County Sheriff Bob Land reported no need for additional funds to the jail for transfers, saying that he and Shepherd have determined the department has enough money to cover transfers for the remainder of the year. He said that as of Monday evening, he had 101 inmates, noting that he started the day with 99 in the jail.

County Council members asked Land about the recent uptick in inmate population and how the sheriff’s department was coping. He said that while transferring inmates has been successful in the past, it’s becoming an expensive solution.

“We can’t keep sending guys up to Elkhart,” he said at the meeting. “I can’t afford to pay a deputy to go up to two hours to Elkhart for an inmate’s court date and then two hours to take them back.”

Land said he had 40 inmates in Miami County and another 10 in Elkhart, but those jails are running out of space too. He said Blackford County would be a good option, but the jail there is currently undergoing renovations that prevents them from taking in more inmates.

On Monday, the council approved to appropriate $20,860 to the jail to help cover the cost of supplies and utilities, money that is already due to the sheriff’s department but was placed in a miscellaneous fund and needed to be appropriated out. Land said he thinks they can get by without the additional funds, but said he’ll soon be “out of options.” Local authorities are considering pre-trial release conferences and early releases to free up space.

Land said they’re working on releasing low priority inmates or those who aren’t charged with dangerous crimes with the goal of releasing “10 to 15 at a time.” He added that 75 of 99 of his inmates Monday morning are awaiting court dates.

Monday also marked Land’s last County Council meeting of his term as sheriff. The Council publicly recognized Land for his eight years of service to the community. There has been no indication from Land if he will retire, but he said training Sheriff-elect Ryan Baker is going well and he is looking forward to seeing his work in the community.

The next County Council meeting will take place Monday, Jan. 7 at 5 p.m. on the second floor of the Wabash County Courthouse.