'I'm not surprised, I'm pissed' Local leaders and taxpayers disappointed controversial jail site is back on the table

Some Vigo County taxpayers say they have many unanswered questions regarding the proposed jail project.

Posted: Oct 1, 2018 11:24 PM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - Some Vigo County taxpayers say they have many unanswered questions regarding the proposed jail project.

Monday night, News 10 learned that county commissioners have narrowed down two locations as to where a new jail would be built. Those sites include the former International Paper property and the Vigo County Industrial Park.

News 10 spoke with Commissioner Jon Marvel by phone on Monday. That's where he said it would make more sense to go with the International Paper Property for the purpose of transporting inmates.

The announcement has caused disappointment and disbelief among some as the property was at the center of controversy back in May. Concerns from the public centered around how close in distance the new jail would be to the Vigo County School Corporation Aquatic Center and the Wabash River.

LINK | OLD INTERNATIONAL PAPER PROPERTY BACK IN THE RUNNING FOR NEW JAIL LOCATION

County commissioners chose to back off from the site due to public outcry and a "doomed rezoning request" at the time.

However, some said they are extremely concerned that the location is back on the table once again.

"You're going to want to make the most of the land along the river," said Lisa Spence, Taxpayers Association of Vigo County, "So what would be the impact of having this facility there? I'm not sure. I'm not sure the commissioners are sure. I'm not sure they've asked. I'm not sure they care."

Spence, who is president of the Taxpayers Association, has attended numerous government meetings regarding the jail project and its future. Recently, she sent over a list of unanswered questions she still had about the project to county council members and commissioners.

LINK | PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY IN JAIL LAWSUIT SAYS RECENT HEARING SHOULD BE A 'COME TO JESUS MOMENT' FOR THE COUNTY

"Almost regardless of what sites are in play at this point, I'm disappointed that there once again has not been better visibility into the process," she said, "There's no information on what other alternatives might have been considered. There's been no information provided at this point, that I'm aware of, regarding the relative costs or what the decision criteria would have been for either of those sites."

Vigo County Councilman Brendan Kearns said he's also disappointed about the proposed site locations.

"I'm not surprised, I'm pissed, and here's why," said Kearns, "The public has been played. I mean plain and simple. The public stood up, they fought it and I knew this was coming. I could feel it right here. It angers me, but it disappoints me more than anything."

The county has until October 15th to file a timeline regarding the jail project to the federal courts. According to court documents, the timeline also includes plans of how county leaders are addressing issues such as jail staffing and recreation for inmates. 

"It still seems like there would’ve been room to investigate and or communicate alternatives,” Spence said, “and yet again that’s not being done and the court order is being used, in my mind, as an excuse not to follow an appropriate process that includes community input and community awareness.”

Some consider the lawsuit as a "scare tactic" being used by county leaders to make these decisions. 

"Do I think it's a scare tactic? Sure," said Kearns, "I'd like to think it was an accidental thing that evolved into a scare tactic."

"Fear works, it absolutely works," he added, "but fear just took $15 million out of our economy that wasn't there to be taken out. Fear is going to allow us to build a jail at one of the most precious properties along the Wabash River. Fear is going to implode our community."

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