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Digital videos captured at the Bartholomew County Jail would be kept for up to a year to help shield the county from lawsuits under a proposal by Sheriff Mark Gorbett.
Those seeking to sue the county have a 180-day window to file their tort claim notice, Gorbett said. He would like to be able to retain some video from the jail’s 204 cameras for more than twice that time. Jail Commander Maj. Gary Myers said the upgrade would allow video to be kept for nine to 12 months.
The existing system has a shorter retention period, but it already has helped the county defend itself from one lawsuit threat, Gorbett told the County Council on Tuesday. After accusations were made last year about jail treatment, the department pulled up the video of an incident and was able to affirm the sheriff’s version of events.
“This is very cheap insurance for a lawsuit,” Gorbett said.
Gorbett asked the council for $110,000 to pay for the extended video retention program. He said he has about $50,000 within his existing budget he can use for the project, but he plans to seek another $60,000 from other county funds.
“We could end up spending three times as much if we don’t get this taken care of,” council member Chris Ogle said.
The sheriff said he cannot seek bids on the project until he has the money appropriated. Auditor Barb Hackman said the council had not advertised a specific amount to be approved for Tuesday’s agenda, so the item would have to be added to a future agenda, either at a special meeting later this month or at the November meeting.
Council member Rob Kittle, who also is a captain in the sheriff’s department, said the jail has recognized the need for such equipment for about six months and urged the council to find the quickest way to fund the project.
“Every day this goes on, it is causing potential problems,” Kittle said.
The council agreed to explore the options to fund the project and suggested the money could come from unspent county Economic Development Income Taxes or from excess funds in the county general fund. Because County Commissioners control the spending of economic development funds, they would have to approve such a use, Hackman said.
In other business on Tuesday, County Council:
Gave second and final approval for the county’s $35.6 million 2014 budget, down $2.2 million, or about 6 percent, from the 2013 approved budget. The budget included a 2 percent pay raise and a $300 bonus for county employees and a parity pay plan that will bring sheriff’s deputies closer to their Columbus Police Department counterparts.
Gave approval for the $3.7 million 2014 Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District budget. The budget included funding for a countywide business cardboard recycling plan that will start next year.
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