County council approves major funding for maintenance at jail

The Huntington County Council approved a $1.4 million project at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 24, that will address longtime maintenance issues at the county jail while reducing its energy usage.

Ameresco, an energy-efficiency company, will oversee the project. Garyne Evans, director of development engineering with Ameresco, made a presentation to council covering the four areas the project would address: lighting retrofits and upgrades, water conservation, HVAC system upgrades and control system upgrades. The Huntington County Commissioners approved the scope of the project and sent it before council to fund.

“In English, everything is shot over there,” said Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel of the jail. The facility’s heating and air conditioning, he noted, were in particularly poor shape.

Evans projected the county could save up to $21,520 annually in energy and water costs at the jail, as well as $1,124 in maintenance costs. He also forecasted a yearly capital cost avoidance total of $130,020.

Council voted to pay for the project using Public Safety LOIT funds. Evans and other Ameresco personnel at the meeting estimated that work could begin in January.

The board also discussed making repairs to the Huntington County Courthouse. Lisa Lee, a municipal finance specialist with law firm Ice Miller in Indianapolis, advised council on how it could fund that work. While the board hasn’t issued a bond in several years, Lee stated that it would likely need to do so in this instance. Should council choose to go that route, she noted it would be a three-month process.

Of the work that needs to be done at the courthouse, Facilities Manager Greg Ricker said that the boilers and lighting needed to be addressed, in particular. He also mentioned that it was important to make one or more of the courthouse restrooms ADA-compliant.

Council resolved to continue discussing its funding options and did not rule out issuing a bond.

Matt Taylor, the county’s information technology director, spoke to the board about outfitting the sheriff’s department with a new computer system. Taylor proposed making a switch from Cisco Systems to Spillman Technologies. He noted that law enforcement entities throughout the county were coordinating on this front, each seeking to go with Spillman in the interests of facilitating communication. Taylor explained that the cost of making the switch would be $206,000, with a 50 percent down payment.

The board instructed Taylor to come back to its next meeting with a detailed payment schedule for Spillman’s services.