A Vigo County man said he hopes to get the attention of county officials on a less costly plan for a new county jail.
But there’s a snag: he wants county commissioners to answer his newspaper ad and seek him out, while the commissioners say he’s welcome to make an appointment and go see them.
And, so far, that’s where things stand, with the two parties not having met.
Robert F. Scott has recently run a nearly half-page ad three times in the Tribune-Star as an “open letter to Vigo County commissioners.” He says he has a competing, less-expensive jail design to offer to the Board of Commissioners.
Scott said his 10-wing unit design would be 86,500 square feet, costing $327 per square foot, with a total cost of about $28.5 million to house about 500 inmates. That is less, Scott said, than what he says could be a 162,000-square-foot jail costing $53 million to hold 500 inmates.
“That is the latest estimate I have heard from somewhere,” Scott said.
“I put the $66.5 million cost in [the ad] because they have not disclosed what the latest design is. I am trying to protect taxpayers from a $66 million bill,” which was the last amount estimated for a jail for 527, Scott said.
His design looks like a half circle, with spokes going from the center of the half-circle, with inmates contained in 500 single occupancy rooms, a system Scott said would eliminate face-to-face clashes between inmates and jail staff.
“In simplest terms, my motivation is that unless a second new jail design has been presented to the commissioners, there will be nothing to stop the commissioners from building a mega-jail,” Scott said. “There must be a second design to compete with what the commissioners are doing.”
“I think they should have time to consider this,” Scott added. “I think they have a fiduciary obligation to evaluate my plan since it is in competition with what they have,” he said.
Scott, 90, retired, said he served as production manager of a family business, Terre Haute Meat Packing Co., until a massive explosion in 1963 shuttered the company. He continued to work until age 65 as a business consultant and in insurance.
In his ad, he asks the commissioners to “report their evaluation and intentions in writing as a letter to the editor of the Tribune-Star. In this manner, the general public will be fully informed of their [commissioners] response to my proposal.”
Board of Commissioners President Judith Anderson said commissioners “don’t do business through the newspaper.
“We don’t respond through the newspaper. He is more than welcome to call and set an appointment and come in,” Anderson said of Scott. “We would be more than happy to meet with him.”
Scott said he wants commissioners to come to him to hear his proposal.
“They are not doing business through the paper,” he said. “It is an open letter, a personal letter that happens to be in the newspaper. The newspaper doesn’t have anything to do with it, except I want a written response from them and I want it to be in the newspaper for the very reason that I put at the bottom [of the ad] — I want the public to be aware of what is being done,” he said.
“It is unorthodox, but anything new or different is unorthodox,” Scott said.
Scott said he 10 to 15 people have come to his home to look at his plan, including Vigo County Council members Brendan Kearns and Mike Morris.
“All the commissioners have to do is accept my proposal. Sit down with me, study what I am proposing, and then they can decide what it is about,” Scott said.