FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — When the Allen County Commissioners Friday announced that the Allen County Sheriff’s training facility at Paulding and Adams Center roads was chosen as the site for the new $350 million jail, a shock went through City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker.
With new commercial and housing development coming to the city’s southeast side, a new jail, near Prince Chapman Academy, was everything Tucker, her fellow council allies and residents have fought against.
Wednesday, she voiced her ire at a hastily-convened press conference, surrounded by her community and fellow council members, Michelle Chambers and Glynn Hines. On the hot tarmac of the parking lot at the Adams Township Fire Department, Tucker made the point that she and others are against locating the jail on the southeast side of the city or county.
“I could, but I won’t talk about my frustration about not being included in the conversation of where a jail would be located,” Tucker said at the mic. “I could, but I won’t talk about how this feeds right into the stereotype that is generally cast on the community that I represent to say that it is okay for a jail to be placed within the 6th district. And I could, but I won’t talk about the financial impact that this will have on many, many lives without even having a voice included to the conversation.”
After having read the opinion handed down by Federal Judge Damon R. Leichty which ordered changes made to the existing jail, Tucker said she understood there is a problem with that facility, but nowhere in the judge’s order, issued on March 29, did it indicate a jail location, she said.
“The proposed site is right across the street from our elementary babies,” Tucker said.
If inmates were going outside for recreation, Tucker said there would be a wall and other security, maybe even barbed wire.
What kind of example would that be, she asked.
Glynn Hines, the senior Democratic city councilman, said there were positive developments including Linda Golden’s proposed commercial development next to Menard’s on the southeast side, and Roosevelt Estates, a 200-home development announced by local developer Jerry Starks. Hines likened the new jail to a prison fortress.
“When you talk about building a $350 million facility, that’s a fortress. You’re going to have barbed wire. You’re going to have bricks. You’re going to have all types of surveillance,” said Hines, calling it a negative impact on the area.
Chambers said it wasn’t appropriate to have children walking or being bused past this kind of facility and echoed the phrase she attached to a Facebook post: “Not on our watch.”
“We owe it to the men and women, black, brown and white in this community, who have fought to keep this a community of love, living, leadership and most importantly, learning, and we will fight against anything that will interfere with that. We don’t want to see a jail here no more than the $200,000 plus condo owners want to look out their windows and see the jail downtown,” Denita Washington, Adams Township Trustee, referring to new downtown condos with balconies facing the front of the Allen County Jail on Calhoun Street.
After the press conference, Tucker said she was in the process of setting a date to meet with Allen County Commissioners Nelson Peters, Richard Beck and Therese Brown.
Commissioner Nelson Peters responds
For his part, Peters said if the jail is built on the 200-acre property, it would be “well buffered,” and disputed the idea that the jail would bring down property values.
“We’ve got a structure downtown right now you’re seeing almost $200 million of riverfront development going on and that hasn’t really stymied growth,” said Peters, referring to the existing jail bounded by Clinton, Superior and Calhoun streets.
Peters said it was the best parcel in the time allotted by the federal judge, and contrary to popular opinion, the county doesn’t have a lot of 60-acre parcels available.
“One of the other considerations that has to occur is the proximity of the facility to the Fort Wayne Police Department. I heard her (Tucker) mention Poe and Hoagland. Imagine the cost to the FWPD of transporting prisoners, of having to provide transportation for court hearings and that type of thing?” Peters asked.
The old Irene Byron location on Lima Road is a good 10 miles from downtown as are the villages of Poe and Monroeville, where the sheriff’s training facility is maybe three miles, Peters said. Fort Wayne International Airport does indeed own vacant land, but didn’t want to sell.
The Lima Road property won’t be ready for anything for about two years and doesn’t fit into the judge’s timeline, Peters added.
The commissioners continue to vet two properties on Meyer Road that are close to the sheriff’s training facility, said Peters, who added that the commissioners asked the public to suggest property and had no offers.
Leichty stipulated that the commissioners have a site chosen by July 14 and the long term plan in his hands on Aug. 25, the next time the commissioners, Sheriff David Gladieux and the judge meet at the federal courthouse downtown. At their last hearing on June 14, Leichty had little patience with any excuses for anything.
Even if the entire 200-acre site is not optimal for this type of construction, the commissioners have carved out 60 acres that could withstand a large jail complex. Drainage has been an issue, Peters said.
Gladieux said he was opposed to the idea of constructing the jail at the training facility, which currently has a K-9 training facility, a shooting range, an EV bicycle course under construction and public horse trails. One of his main objections is having inmates within sight of officers in training.
“We’re open to better ideas,” Peters said. “Nobody has come up with one.”