FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The location of Fort Wayne’s new jail continues to be a hot topic. So hot, in fact, that it sparked flames at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, even though it wasn’t a topic listed on the agenda.
And in fact, it’s an issue that city council has no official power to stop.
The county owns and operates the jail, and the county council makes decisions about where it would relocate. That leaves the final decision squarely on the shoulders of the three county commissioners, Nelson Peters, Richard E. Beck, Jr. and Therese M. Brown.
Sharon Tucker has not been afraid to voice her discontent with the new jail’s location, and actually joined fellow councilmembers Michelle Chambers and Glynn Hines at a press conference on July 19 in opposition of the new venture.
The Allen County Commissioners have proposed building the jail on 70 of the 200 acres at the Allen County Sheriff’s training grounds at Adams Center and Paulding roads. County Councilman Nelson Peters has said he welcomes other suggestions, but none have been brought forward.
Tuesday night at council, Tucker showed her exasperation knows no bounds.
At the conclusion of the meeting when councilmembers are given time to speak, Tucker’s passion took over.
She was upset with proponents of the jail, pointing to the argument downtown has succeeded with a jail in its proximity.
She said that argument was like “comparing a watermelon to an orange.”
“Downtown Fort Wayne has seen millions of tax incentives and millions of tax dollars donated to it. In fact today we gave a million to it for some sidewalks and trails and beautification. Downtown is what it is, and it is beautiful… The administration, all those developers who have put their dollars there, have helped promote it. That has not and will not happen at the same level in southeast Fort Wayne. For the comparison to be that we can survive, we absolutely cannot.”– Councilwoman Sharon Tucker
She added she was insulted that a school being 2,000 feet away from the new jail would be acceptable.
She named a number of alternative locations for the jail before concluding, saying she will “continue to speak against it until we can make our voices heard and come up with a sustainable solution that does not put a noose on our neighborhood’s neck.”
And this is not a battle that is lonely.
Tucker’s sentiments were shared by councilmembers Tom Didier, Geoff Paddock, Glynn Hines, Michelle Chambers, and Tom Freistroffer.
She even exchanged a hug and talked about the jail with councilman Paul Ensley in the hallway.
The sentiment among those councilmembers is there has to be a better location for the jail or a way the jail’s capacity can be increased.
Paddock recounted how he once fought a similar fight.
In the 90’s he said city officials were trying to increase the footprint of the jail at the same time Headwaters Park was getting its feet under it. The city eventually elected to add another floor to the jail rather than building a wing where Rothschild Pavilion now sits.
He doesn’t see why it can’t be done again.
“The jail then was built up instead of out to the north, it was built up a couple of floors, and it was my understanding we had the ability with engineers and architects to build the jail up another floor or two at its current location,” Paddock said in support of an alternative that would keep the jail where it is.
The council members were also supported by a number of citizens who gave public comment against the jail’s new location.