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June 14, 2021

10/12/2009
Will the Fat Lady Sing Jail House Blues?
Maybe you thought the controversy between Shelbyville and Shelby County governments concerning continued occupancy by the City Police Department in the Criminal Justice Center had been settled.

Last July, the mayor said he was tired of talking about the issue and asked the Shelbyville City Council to make a decision on whether or not to accept the county's proposal. The City Council subsequently voted 6-1 in favor of accepting the county's offer.

So, did the fat lady sing three months ago? Apparently not.

Many citizens thought the council's action effectively ended the jail debate. But a recent newspaper article reported that the city and county continue to be at odds over the jail occupancy agreement. In order to help keep you informed of those developments, the October 6, 2009 newspaper article and an excerpt from the minutes of the July 6, 2009 City Council Meeting follow:

County revisits jail proposal

City would stay rent-free, pay part of overhead

By Jeff Tucker The Shelbyville News Staff writer

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners approved another offer Monday afternoon for the city to continue occupancy at the Shelby County jail, and county leaders were upbeat that the accord could potentially end months of negotiations between city and county leaders.

Shelbyville Mayor Scott Furgeson said he received the proposal from commissioners President Tony Newton at about 3 p.m. Monday but hadn't had time to study it, so the county's latest proposal was not discussed at Monday's board of works or the city council meetings.

Furgeson said Monday night he had not yet looked at the county's proposal but said he still has reservations about keeping the city police department in a county-owned building.

"I've preferred to move all along," the mayor told the newspaper. "I still don't like the fact that we're basically renting space. I don't like the fact of being at the mercy of someone else about what we should be doing."

The interlocal agreement calls for the city and county to "share in the costs of certain utilities, based on the percentage of use attributable to each entity" at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center at 107 W. Taylor St.

The new agreement builds upon and amends prior jail agreements that placed responsibility on the city for a portion of utilities. The new agreement approved unanimously Monday by the commissioners breaks down what portions of annual operating expenses each governmental unit would pay.

The county would be responsible for 83.5 percent of the costs for natural gas, electricity, pest control, generator maintenance, water heater and boiler inspections, fire alarm system and fire extinguisher inspections, heating and air conditioning maintenance, general repairs and maintenance, ground maintenance, garbage and recycling and 15-year upgrades to the building's heating, cooling and phone systems.

The city would be responsible for the other 16.5 percent of those costs, or a little more than $41,000 a year currently.

The county would be responsible for 92.5 percent of the jail's water, stormwater and sewage bills, with the city responsible for the remaining 7.5 percent, and the county would be responsible for 69 percent of the billings for the shared prime phone lines at the jail, with the city responsible for the remaining 31 percent. The city's estimated current annual costs for water and phones is $57,771.

The county would be completely responsible for general repairs and maintenance on the portion of the jail used exclusively by the county, while the city would be solely responsible for general repairs and maintenance of the portion of the jail occupied by city employees.

In the event there is a substantial increase or decrease in the use of water, stormwater and sewage utilities, the proposal calls for renegotiations to arrive at percentages of responsibility between the city and county.

In addition, if there is "any substantial increase or decrease" in the annual ongoing overhead costs, "they shall be negotiated," according to the interlocal agreement.

The proposal says all other terms of the original lease signed by city and county officials in May of 1992 "shall remain in full force and effect."

The interlocal agreement has no ending date and says it "shall continue in force and effect from year to year" once it is approved by the Shelbyville Common Council and Shelby County commissioners.

Newton said county leaders dropped requests for rent payment in order to reach a deal with the city.

"There's no rent in it whatsoever," Newton said. "It's all just the sharing of utilities and maintenance."

Furgeson said Monday night the proposal may be taken up by the city's board of works in November.

When read the ending of the document, he said he was not comfortable with the language stating the agreement "shall continue in force and effect from year to year."

"I don't know if we'll want an 'out,' but I don't want to be thrown out either," the mayor said. "We're all friendly now and we're all working on this, but 10 years from now, who will be the commissioners and who's the mayor? I think you need to take into consideration that the people who are in place now probably will not be in place for 10 years, and therefore we need to make sure this is pretty black and white."

Furgeson said the proposal may have to be reworked.

"I don't know. I haven't looked at it," he said. "I've never been agreeable to this, but this is what the council locked us into."

In July, the Shelbyville city council appeared to have ended the debate when the council voted 6-1 to accept the county's offer to pay a portion of the jail's operating expenses.

Furgeson said at the time he was "tired of talking about it" and ready to accept the council's formal commitment to "move past this thing."

After some spirited debate, Councilman Jeff Sponsel, an advocate of moving out of the jail and into a larger facility, proposed accepting the county's offer "on a short-term basis and stay at the jail while we continue to seek long-term solutions to the city's pressing need for more space and room to grow."

Council members Dick Fero, Rob Nolley, Brian Asher, Val Phares and Kim Owens joined Sponsel, while Councilman David Phares cast the lone 'nay' vote, saying he wanted to see more specifics, including a "possible out clause," but added he thought the proposal was "fair in many ways."

The city debate occurred after county officials dropped in June a request that Shelbyville pay monthly rent to keep the city police department based at the jail.

The county's initial rent offer of $162,640 per year, made to the city in late February, as well as its second offer of $52,556, made in early March, were both quickly dismissed by Shelbyville officials.

County officials then began a complete inventory of personnel and space at the jail, seeking an agreement for the city to pay its share of the facility's annual operating expenses.

Commissioner Kevin Nigh, who led the research effort to calculate usage at the 80,000-square-foot facility, told city leaders this summer the county uses 83.5 percent of the jail's square footage, or 66,861 square feet, and the city uses the remaining 16.5 percent, or 13,139 square feet.

Newton said he feels the agreement is fair and that the city's portion of utilities would be about the cost of the rent that had been proposed.

"The rent would have paid the utilities," Newton said. "We went back and got the shared utility costs. It actually came out to about the same figure, instead of charging them a flat square-footage price.

"Now, we have to move forward."

Furgeson and other city officials have requested a long-term contract that would preclude future rent increases. Furgeson has likened the situation to "paying off a home mortgage, then having the bank start charging you rent."

Some Shelbyville city council members, such as Asher, have urged the mayor to seek a resolution, while others, such as Sponsel, have favored the city purchasing its own facility, the First Christian Church across the street from City Hall, to provide for future growth for the city's police and other departments.

The $15 million jail facility was purchased jointly by the city and county with economic development income tax funds over the last 17 years, with the city paying about a third of the bond costs and the county paying the other two-thirds.

The jail bond was retired at the end of June after the county paid its final $785,000 payment and the city paid its final $355,000 payment.

The dispute revolved around a single paragraph in a 1992 agreement that called for the city and county to "negotiate an appropriate continuing occupancy agreement, which shall include a reasonable share of reimbursement to the county from the city for the outside maintenance costs and provide for any necessary growth to the facility."

Furgeson and other city officials maintain the original agreement left out rent because no rent was intended to be charged to the city, while the commissioners suggested rent since the county is the landlord and the building has ongoing operational costs.

Furgeson has said it amounts to a double tax on city taxpayers, who pay both county and city taxes, while Nigh has noted no other county municipalities are allocated space at the jail.

(Article content copyright The Shelbyville News)

Excerpt from Shelbyville Common Council Meeting Minutes - July 6, 2009

'Finally in old business, Mayor Furgeson expressed his desire to have a motion to either fund the 16.5% of building and maintenance costs, 7.5% of water and sewage, and 31% of shared prime phone lines at the Criminal Justice Center as presented by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners or not. 

Councilman Sponsel moved to approve this on a short term basis and continue to look for a long term more visionary approach to operate the City of Shelbyville, and Councilman Nolley seconded. 

Councilman Asher stated that he does not have a clear understanding of the motion. 

Councilman Sponsel replied that he wants to put an end to this discussion and media ping pong match and to accept this agreement from the county while continuing to pursue long term interests of the City, and fund this 16.5% only until another solution is found. 

Councilman Val Phares asked if we are voting on the $57,000.00 and change while looking for the future. 

Councilman Fero stated that any additional improvements costs would be included in the 16.5%. 

Councilman Asher stated that it would be up to the Board of Works to provide an actual contract and in that contract provide that actual costs for improvements would not be incurred by the City. 

Mayor Furgeson related that it will be 16.5% of all costs at the facility, giving the example that if the County were to install a one million dollar air conditioning system, the City would be on the hook for 16.5% of that cost. 

Councilman Val Phares asked if the big items could be negotiated with the County. 

Mayor Furgeson replied that it was clear in the meeting with the Commissioners that the 16.5% would include everything. 

Councilman Asher stated that he thinks the exclusion of big items can be written into the contract. 

Mayor Furgeson related that he doesn't think that this agreement is fair and that the City should only pay utilities because City taxpayers already pay 42% of the County's taxes for the Criminal Justice Center on top of what they pay in City taxes, and added that City taxpayers get shorted a lot with shared expenses with the County such as the ambulance funding. 

Councilman Asher stated that the Council can get hung up on this or buy another facility and pay 100% of an air conditioner that may go bad. 

Councilman Asher added that this agreement is a cheaper route at this time compared to spending $2.5 million on another facility. 

Mayor Furgeson stated he didn't care which way the Council goes on this, they just need to make a decision. 

Councilman Asher asked about the short term wording in the motion. 

Mayor Furgeson stated that the Board of Works will try to craft a long term agreement with the County. 

Councilman David Phares asked if this was the presentation the Commissioners were to present to the Council. 

Mayor Furgeson replied that it was brought to the Board of Works. 

Councilman David Phares asked if the Council would agree to the 16.5%, would the County agree to some sort of an out within a year. 

Mayor Furgeson stated that the Board of Works will try their best to do that, but a long term agreement needs to be worked out so it doesn't put the City in a bad position. 

Councilwoman Owens stated that she doesn't have a problem with the 16.5%, but does have a problem with paying any kind of unforeseen large expenditure. 

Councilman Fero called for the question. 

Mr. John Steineker asked if the $58,000.00 represents last year's expenses, next year's or an entry fee. 

Mayor Furgeson replied that it represents the utilities for the past year. 

Mr. Steineker asked where this agreement starts in relation to the calendar. 

Mayor Furgeson replied that the City would be billed six months in arrears. 

Councilman Asher asked if this agreement would take effect at the first of 2010. 

Mayor Furgeson replied that he did not know. 

Mr. Mike Carpenter asked if Councilman Sponsel's motion committed the City to one year only. 

Mayor Furgeson replied that it would be forever. 

The motion was carried on a 6-1 voice vote with Councilman David Phares voting nay.'



Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Article comment by: Why?

Is the mayor suffering from amnesia or does he just lie every time he opens his mouth? He wants to leave - he wants to move! Does he have a spilt personality? Is he trying to make Sponsel happy? Has he forgotten that his duties as mayor are to do what is best for the entire community? It appears that his main adjective has become the duty to help his church sell their building so they can build else where. Hasnít he helped enough people out with our tax dollars?


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