City and county elected officials are beginning to publicly address the Shelbyville Police Department's continuing occupancy in Shelby County's Criminal Justice Center.
Not surprisingly, the city and county are at odds over the issue and a number of sticking points need to be resolved.
The county has interpreted language in a paragraph of the existing Shelbyville Police Facility Agreement to mean (beyond a doubt) that Shelby County may charge the City of Shelbyville annual rent for continued occupancy in the building once the construction bonds are satisfied later this year.
Some city officials and others in the community, including me, recall the tribulations involved in building the new jail. This group knows with an equal amount of certainty that the City of Shelbyville did not donate over $5 million dollars to the jail construction project as an outright gift.
There was a quid pro quo. The city contributed to the jail building project in exchange for a new home for the Shelbyville Police Department. The Criminal Justice Center was designed specifically to include allocated space for city law enforcement offices. Furthermore, the space was meant to be a new permanent home for the Shelbyville Police Department, not a temporary home.
The simple fact is this, Shelby County had a serious problem in the early 90's. In order to settle a lawsuit, the county had to build a new jail. But the county couldn't afford to build a new jail, so the community came together and solved the problem with a creative financial solution. At the time, it was touted as a win-win-win situation for citizens and both government entities. I should point out that our community has done this sort of thing many times before, and since, in our history. Working together in new ways, long before it was a stated aspiration. How ironic.
The city's annual contributions of EDIT dollars during the past 16 years were not rental payments. Therefore, assertions by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners that the city will save $200,000 annually by paying $162,000 in rent for the Police Department space next year is ridiculous.
I will concede two points. First, the Criminal Justice Center is owned by Shelby County (or, will be owned by the county after the bonds are satisfied). This was deemed necessary due to a host of legal and insurance requirements. Second, the Shelbyville Police Facility Lease Agreement contains some ambiguities in language. Unfortunately, the county has seized on the minor ambiguous language to support its misinterpretation of the agreement. In my view, the vagueness is attributable to the fact that the drafters and signatories knew that the intent of the agreement was to provide a permanent home for the Shelbyville Police Department. It's a pity that many of the individuals involved back then are either curiously silent or deliberately misremembering.
And to complicate matters, the Mayor wants to buy a church. Or, doesn't want to buy a church. Or does. Or doesn't. Or did. Or didn't. Likewise for some of our city council members.
In addition, city police officers don't like sharing space with the county mounties. Or some don't, but others do. But most don't. And there's a good chance the Sheriff Patrol feels the same way. Whichever way that might be.
Speaking of the church property, there's still a chance the city will pursue buying the church whether or not it is used for the Police Department. That will come with a preliminary price tag of $2.1 million dollars. Proponents argue that the proximity to City Hall makes the church an ideal location for expanding local government. It seems an argument could also be made that downtown is no longer the center of the city and that proximity is far less a factor in the electronic era.
The Addendum to the Shelbyville Police Facility Agreement says, "All parties hereto agree, covenant, and consent that any and all controversies or claims arising out of or in any way relating to this contract or any breach of this agreement shall be settled solely by arbitration..."
I don't see any ambiguous language there, do you?
The county has said repeatedly they are willing to negotiate, therefore, the city should negotiate.
Here's a proposal.
Negotiate a new continuing occupancy agreement.
The city will pay its share of utilities and insurance based on the same formula as the current agreement.
City and county must agree on a definition and dollar amount for "reasonable share" of outside maintenance costs.
City and county must agree on a definition and formula for "necessary growth to the facility". (Hint: this should refer to the Shelbyville Police Facility, not the entire Criminal Justice Center).
And finally, the city should pay the county a lease payment of one dollar per year.
Regardless of the outcome, the county needs to send city residents a Thank-You Note. Just so we won't feel used and abused.