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Delaware County puts expanded jail on November ballot

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MANCHESTER — All the talk of a possible jail expansion bond vote in Delaware County is no longer just talk.

Earlier this week, Delaware County supervisors took steps to put the question on the November 4 ballot.

The renovation and expansion of both the jail and the sheriff’s office in Manchester is a $4.9 million dollar proposal and would be paid for with an increase in property taxes. Under the proposal, the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay an extra $35 per year for 20 years if the bond passes. To do so, it will take 60% approval, called a super majority.

The expansion push started after Timothy Reynolds escaped from the Delaware County Jail back in November of 2012. He hit a deputy with a telephone, stole the officer’s personal keys and then his car outside. He wasn’t captured until several weeks later in Indiana.

Delaware County Supervisor Jeff Madlom said he will certainly bring that escape up when he pitches the plan to voters.

The expansion would add a few jail cells and modernize the entire structure, including an electronic locking system instead of keys that’s designed to prevent another escape like Reynolds’ two years ago.

“We’ve been working on this a number of years. We’re at the point our jail has failed some of our jail inspections and they’ve given us notice we need to start something soon,” Madlom said.

Delaware County officials had large-scale drawings of the expansion created and will show them off in the courthouse until the bond vote.

Earlier this summer, the sheriff and others manned a booth at the county fair to talk up the project to voters.

But another supervisor, Shirley Helmrichs, said it’s one thing to talk in general terms about a need, but something else to schedule a vote with tax consequences.

Helmrichs and others have seen struggles with jail referendums in other counties, including three failed expansion attempts in Johnson County since the year 2000.

As part of the coming campaign, the sheriff will send prisoners to a neighboring county for a couple of day on a weekend to give voters a chance for a complete open house tour of the jail.

That open house is not scheduled yet, but make take place in a couple of weeks.

“We’re going to have a couple more open houses over at the jail for people to come and see the things that work and the things that don’t. People can them make their own decisions,” Helmrichs said.

In addition to jailhouse tours, county officials also plan visits to most Delaware County communities for public forums to sell the plan.

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