Opponents of a proposed new Vigo County Jail took their case to the Terre Haute City Council Thursday as that body has the final say on rezoning for the facility.
With Councilman George Azar, D-at large, absent, the council did not act on the rezoning. Because it involves an ordinance, action on first reading requires unanimous consent of the council and a two-thirds vote for passage.
Millie Hoffman Padgett of the Vigo County Taxpayers Association argued against building a jail adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant on the city's far southwest side. She said it would needlessly add millions of dollars to the cost and raise additional safety and inconvenience concerns.
With the projected construction cost at $60 million, she also cited competition for taxpayer resources.
“Now comes the Vigo County School Corp. in dire need, first of operational funding and secondly, and more principally, in need of a much larger investment of facilities,” Padgett said.
Mike Gordon acknowledged that the council cannot choose a jail site but, “what you can do, however, is say no to a bad plan and you've done that before with your zoning ordinances.”
Jack Meany expressed a similar sentiment, saying the site “makes no sense at all.” He said the jail should be built on the current government campus and called it “a sin,” or at least “a mistake” to spend twice as much for a jail as it should cost.
Independent mayoral candidate Pat Goodwin provided an aerial photo of the government campus with the footprint of a less expensive, multi-story jail in Saginaw County, Michigan, imposed on the northwest side of the property.
Wabash Valley Art Spaces plans a "Turn to the River" public art and design development across the government complex, but Goodwin said a jail comparable to Saginaw's could be built on the site without interfering with the Art Spaces project.
Goodwin, and some other speakers, called on the council to work with Mayor Duke Bennett and county officials on another plan.
Attorney Jeffrey Lind, who represents the current owners of the proposed jail site, cautioned that denying rezoning of the property would cause county officials to locate the jail outside the city.
Councilman Curtis DeBaun IV, D-at large, later said that was also his understanding.
However, Brendan Kearns, the only member of the three-person county board of commissioners at the meeting, said if a discussion on that possibility has been held, he was not involved.
The council will revisit zoning for the jail site at its Aug. 8 meeting.
Editor's note: This story was corrected at 3:45 p.m. Friday to indicate Aug. 8 is the correct date on which the council will resume its discussion of zoning for the jail.
Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.