Blame for jail project delay on commissioners

At the county commissioners’ meeting on May 21, Vigo Commissioner Brad Anderson stated that the construction of a new jail has been delayed by a group of about 30 people, most of them rude and insulting professors. Commissioner Anderson went on to say that these delays have cost the county $1 million. If he is intent on assigning blame for delays in constructing a new jail then he might want to take a look in a mirror rather than accusing members of the community.

Since 2017, public interest in the new jail has continued to increase with the result that overflow crowds attend city and county council meetings whenever the issue is discussed and at those meetings hundreds of community members have expressed their concern with different parts of the commissioners’ jail plans. One of the principal complaints community members made was that an independent assessment of our criminal justice system should precede construction of the jail. Such an assessment is recommended by the National Institute of Corrections and was voted on unanimously by the County Council.

The commissioners’ initial failure to allow for such a recommendation caused significant delays in the project, as did their still-puzzling attempt to rezone the old International Paper site for jail use. They originally proposed this site in 2017, withdrew their proposal, and then proposed it again almost a year later. This took even more time because of the commissioners’ attempt to go around local zoning laws. 

When the City Council refused to rezone the site the commissioners had to hurriedly begin looking at alternate locations. Why were other sites not explored during the intervening year? The commissioners’ failure to look beyond the City Council rezoning vote caused further delay.

Public opposition to the jail is largely the result of the commissioners’ (Brendan Kearns excepted) high-handed and top-down approach to the project. Contrast this with the way the Vigo County School Corp. has gone about exploring the community’s thoughts on new school construction and on developing a new strategic direction. Superintendent Rob Haworth has spared no effort to involve the community and to use their input.

Commissioner Brad Anderson’s attempt to blame others for delays he and the other commissioners (Judy Anderson and then-Commissioner Jon Marvel) have caused through their tone-deaf, my-way-or-the-highway brand of local government resulted in a public backlash that could have been avoided if they had been more in tune with their community, followed best practices by conducting an independent needs assessment at the outset, and not waited almost a year to propose a location they’d already retracted.

Commissioner Anderson, as a singer you must know Bo Diddley’s song “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.”

— Caedyn Abner, Terre Haute


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