ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) — Allen County’s sheriff is saying he’s ready to refuse payment on a special kind of inmate medical expense, and he says if he gets sued, so be it.
It’s part of the sheriff’s budget battle with county council.
Sheriff Ken Fries is already at odds with council members over how much money he’ll have to spend in 2013, and now, he could be on a collision course with local health care providers.
Fries is being told he needs to slash $1.6 million from his budget request in 2013.
He says he’s scratched his call for $400,000 to buy new squad cars; is ready to cut out $100,000 in overtime costs, and is prepared to eliminate an educational bonus to his officers as well as their clothing allowance.
He’s also cutting $400,000 for pre-existing inmate medical expenses, in hopes the legislature will take sheriff’s departments off the hook for those costs.
We asked him what happens if lawmakers don’t.
” I’ve already contacted our attorneys,” said Sheriff Fries. “I said I want you to digest the law, I’m not willing to pay it anymore, and if the hospitals want to sue us over it, then we’ll go to court. But I don’t believe inmates should be getting better health care than what the public does.”
The sheriff is also taking issue with the decision a couple years back by county government to spend $4-million to purchase chunks of real estate for a land bank program.
The tracts become shovel ready sites, which can be used to attract businesses looking to build a new plant.
The sheriff says it was a bad move, because it reduced the balance in the county’s Rainy Day fund, which he believes should now be used to meet budget shortfalls in cash-strapped county departments.
Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters says the land bank program helped the county lock up a General Mills distribution center off Bluffton Road, and a Steel Dynamics LaFarge facility, totaling $80-million worth of investment between the two projects.
Mick McCollum, the interim President of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance, says our area lost out on a large-scale manufacturing plant in the late 1990’s, because another city donated the company 100 acres of land, and sold it another 100 acres at a cut rate price, to help close the deal.
McCollum says that project created 1,500 high paying jobs, which he says demonstrates why a good land bank program is essential to compete for big economic development prizes.
Sheriff Fries is scheduled to go before Allen County Council again on Thursday, to try and reach consensus on ways to achieve cost savings in his department.