Indiana’s Delaware County to Convert School to Jail

MUNCIE, Ind. — At a Delaware County Commissioners meeting in the last week of June, the commissioners unanimously approved a bid to construct a 500-bed county jail. The new $45 million facility will repurpose the existing Wilson Middle School under a design and build contract awarded to BW Development. Of note is the fact that the entity was the sole respondent to the county’s request for proposal.

“We only had one responder,” observed county attorney John Brooke at a June 18 public meeting of the commissioners. “It was advertised in several different publications and put in at least two trade journals and only had one response, so the recommendation is that the RFP would be approved.”

The 200,000-square-foot Wilson Middle School was built in 1996 but closed in 2014 due to the district’s shrinking population. In 2015, the building was sold to local property management company ASONS, which kept the property for two years prior to putting it back on the market. The county commissioners agreed to purchase the property for the new jail project for $3 million.

The design of the new Delaware County jail leverages the copious space of the former school and will not only include room for courts, but will also provide space for a panoply of offices — prosecutor, probation, public defender, sheriff and probation among them. Moreover, by moving the courts and offices to the new site, monies spent on downtown rentals for the current offices will be spared.

In the recent meeting, the commissioners explained that Indianapolis-based BW Development would both build and manage the project, which would preclude the possibility of change orders that would increase costs for the county. The $45 million price tag is down from a preliminary plan to spend up to $50 million, which was approved last January 2018. The project will likely be funded through revenues from a local public safety income tax, economic development income tax (EDIT) and tax increment financing (TIF) revenue. The conversion of the middle school into the jail is expected to take two years.

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