ALBION — Come Jan. 1, every person arrested and brought to the Noble County Jail will have a risk assessment done to determine if that person should be incarcerated.
Noble County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch referred to it as a “catch-and-release” philosophy being handed down by the state. Most misdemeanor offenders won’t be jailed under the new guidelines.
Whether or not someone is jailed will depend on that risk assessment.
The state Office of Court Services has thrown a wrench into the Noble County Probation Department’s plan to staff that position. The OCS is offering a $60,000 grant for the next two years to fund each county’s risk assessment efforts.
Noble County Probation had worked out a deal with the Bowen Center for that mental health care provider to provide a person. The county would pay that person’s salary to do the risk assessment, but the Bowen Center would pay for the person’s retirement and other benefits.
The OCS denied Noble County’s request to use its grant funds in that way, arguing it was giving preferential treatment to the Bowen Center over the Northeastern Center, which also provided mental health services in Noble County.
“We are now back to the drawing board,” Noble County Chief Probation Officer Stacey Beam told the Noble County Council Monday.
The council agreed to let the probation department hire an additional case manager to help make those risk assessments.
According to Noble County Assistant Chief Probation Officer Danyel Wagner, the new state guidelines have a dual purpose.
The first purpose is to prevent someone from being incarcerated before trial simply because that individual cannot afford the bond. The second purpose is to make sure dangerous people are kept off the streets until their case has been adjudicated.
Noble County Sheriff Max Weber said he will be instructing his officers, and asking those from other jurisdictions, to not arrest some non-violent offenders, instead citing the alleged perpetrator of a misdemeanor offense — Weber gave the example of someone who is caught driving while suspended — and then releasing them.
Fewer people being booked means less money being collected through fees which help run some of the criminal justice programs in Noble County, according to Kirsch and Beam.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Weber announced that the Noble County Jail is currently housing 17 federal inmates. Weber has brought approximately $40,000 in housing fees to the Noble County general fund since the jail began accepting federal inmates in September.
Council president Denise Lemmon on Monday said she wanted to open the door to talks concerning the county’s policy on providing tax abatements for businesses and industry.
An abatement allows a company to make a capital investment while only paying an incremental amount of the property taxes on the investment.
A scoring matrix is used to determine if an abatement is recommended as well as the length of the abatement. The matrix includes the amount of the investment and how many jobs will be created/retained by the purchase of the capital equipment.
Lemmon asked her fellow council members to look over the current matrix to see what changes might be needed.
One part of the abatement process Lemmon seemed keen on going over was the length.
She said a recent nine-year abatement on an $880,000 investment made in Noble County would result in a $75,000 savings to the company over the nine-year life of the abatement. If that abatement was trimmed to six years, the savings would decrease to $45,900. At five years, the savings would be approximately $38,000.
Lemmon said she felt with the county facing potential costs of funding the construction of a new government annex building, it was time to look at all revenue sources to determine what changes — if any — need to be made.
County coordinator Jackie Knafel said when a company receives an abatement, everybody else has to pay a little more.
“It puts the burden in someone else’s court,” Knafel said. “You still need the money to pay for services.”