Terre Haute City Council President Martha Crossen on Monday said she tried to arrange a meeting of stakeholders in the new county jail project, but she abandoned the idea when two of the three Vigo County commissioners showed no interest in attending.
Rezoning of property on Honey Creek Drive adjacent to the city's wastewater treatment plant is now before the council. Several opponents of the site and/or the scope of a planned $60 million jail addressed the council last week.
Crossen, D-6th, pledged to attempt to convene a session involving city and county officials, other stakeholders and citizens groups “to see if we could reach a collaborative solution and/or trust in the solution at hand,” she wrote on Facebook Sunday.
“There was general agreement that the participation of the county commissioners would be central to a successful outcome,” she added, noting she also contacted Mayor Duke Bennett and County Council President Aaron Loudermilk.
Without the commissioners, no such meeting will take place, Crossen said Monday.
Commissioner Judy Anderson characterized her and Commissioner Brad Anderson's responses differently than did Crossen.
"We didn't actually refuse to do it, we just kind of thought it was not necessary,” Judy Anderson said.
“We've gone over and over everything there is to go over," she said. "We have a request in to rezone the property and they either vote it up or down. If they have any questions, there's every opportunity to ask.”
Commissioners met with seven of the nine City Council members when an earlier site on Prairieton Road was proposed and have since met with Crossen and Councilman Curtis DeBaun IV, said Commissioner Brad Anderson, president of the Board of Commissioners.
"We showed them the design we want and why we're building it outside the courthouse campus," he said, saying he plans to also meet with the two remaining council members.
"All these delays are just costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars," Brad Anderson said.
Commissioner Brendan Kearns confirmed in a text message that he agreed to attend a meeting.
“I feel it is needed,” Kearns wrote.
Also Monday, Crossen clarified that the City Council could have taken action on the rezoning on Thursday despite the absence of Councilman George Azar, D-at large.
All members present must agree to act on ordinances at first reading. If all members were to agree to proceed, a two-thirds vote would be necessary for a proposal to be approved.
While the council sometimes does take action on first readings, it often takes more time on major issues, Crossen said.
“I thought it was important that we take it to second reading,” she said. “I also had hopes that we could reach out to the parties to resolve conflicts or any misinformation and obtain additional information and to see if there were any points where we could agree.”
The council is next set to discuss the jail rezoning request, and could act, at its Aug. 1 meeting.
Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.