FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Allen County Commissioners chafed at the idea they are not being transparent when it comes to the new jail.
Friday morning Richard Beck said the commissioners’ weekly Friday meetings are public, recorded on public access TV, and available through Facebook on Allen County Info.
“The media is here every week, asking us questions and doing their job,” Beck said. “This has been going on for months.”
Nelson Peters said he listened to an unidentified podcast where the “adversary” – Kenneth Falk of the Indiana ACLU – said “any of all concerns of the proposed site are unfounded.”
“It’s really kind of interesting that the opposition is saying ‘that’s where it’s got to go,’” Peters added, suggesting that those opposed to the site currently designated for the new jail take on the ACLU.
That there will be a new Allen County Jail is nearly as certain as a federal judge’s order on July 14 commanding the commissioners to come up with a long term plan for a new jail, designate a site, come up with financing for the jail estimated to cost between $300 million and $50 million more than that, etcetera, etcetera.
One of Federal Judge Damon R. Leichty’s more interesting statements on June 14 at the first showdown at the federal courthouse here was “If you think I’m going to sit here and wait, I’m not.”
To satisfy the July 14 deadline and anticipating Leichty’s wrath in the next status hearing Aug. 25, the three commissioners say they had no other choice than to designate 70 of the 200 acres the county owns at Adams Center and Paulding roads for the new jail.
At Friday’s commissioners’ meeting, Nelson Peters reiterated his plea for someone here to come up with an alternate site.
Buried in the agenda was an item for environmental testing at 2911 Meyer Road, an old International building located equidistant between Fort Wayne and New Haven less than a mile south of S.R. 930. Neither Peters nor Richard Beck would confirm the property is under consideration for the new jail, but the lack of confirmation came with a wink of an eye.
The commissioners are keeping their tenor polite in public, but it would be hard not to recognize the hits they took this week from Allen County Councilman Paul Lagemann and Fort Wayne city council members.
After Friday’s meeting, Peters brought up Lagemann’s assertion that there was $50 million in rollover dollars that could be applied to building the jail estimated to cost between $300 and $350 million. Lagemann said that number was ludicrous and should cost no more than $200 million, a figure Peters said was unrealistic.
Peters also said it’s up to the county council to finance the jail. It will most likely be through property taxes, local income taxes allowed by the state to fund correctional facilities or a combination of both, Peters added.
- Court filing: ACLU says progress too slow on jail, suggests night court to move cases along
- Jail talk dominates City Council meeting
- ‘Not on our watch’: Officials reject plan to build new jail in southeast Fort Wayne
- County: New jail to be at Adams Center and Paulding roads
City Council members and residents in the southeast where the proposed site is located – the Allen County Sheriff’s shooting range among other related activities – said it was within view of public schools and sent the wrong message besides being another negative to hit the community.
Peters asserted that the jail downtown is within the same distance – 3,000 feet – of six or seven schools, but did not identify those schools.
The commissioners are absolutely open to other 70 acre sites, but chose the sheriff’s training facility because of Leichty’s deadline, Beck and Peters said.
At Friday’s meeting, only a couple of residents came in opposition to the jail.
Lena Green, was one of them.
“It’s saying to our young people. This is where you’re going to end up eventually. We’ll make it real easy for you. Just go to the school to the jail,” Green said at the mic. “It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t send a good message.”
Taking a drive on the city’s southwest side, Green said she found a great deal of open land that would be suitable. “There’s plenty of room on the southwest side,” Green said. “We really don’t need a jail on the southeast side. People please.”