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10/20/2018 5:49:00 PM
Vigo County sticking by Prairieton Road site for new jail

Howard Greninger, Tribune-Star

Design and cost estimates are continuing for a new Vigo County jail, slated to be constructed on the former International Paper site off Prairieton Road.

A recent design has been revised to 484 beds (down from 527), and a new cost estimate is expected next week, said Vigo commissioners Brad Anderson and John Marvel said Friday.

Those commissioners also continued to stand behind their choice of the county-owned Prairieton Road site for the new jail. 

They said that site remains the most logical one for a new jail, as the county already owns the property. The county purchased 65 acres, which includes the proposed jail site, in December 2016 for $600,000 as part of a proposed project with Powerdyne Terre Haute Holdings LLC that did not come to fruition.

Commissioners considered the site for a jail in 2017, but stepped back after objections that the property should be used for riverfront development.

Commissioners then considered several other sites, including land the county owns in the Vigo County Industrial Park, land across from the U.S. Federal Penitentiary and land near the Honey Creek Mall that had housed a par-3 golf course.

That site behind the mall is under new ownership. Culp Ventures LLC in April purchased 49 acres at 500 W. Honey Creek Drive and 2900 Indiana 63 from First Financial Bank for $1.35 million, according to county tax records.

“We have 49 acres behind the mall, which includes the old Mulligan’s [golf] property. We have offered it for sale and subdivision to anybody and everybody,” said Steve Schrohe, managing member of Culp Ventures LLC.

“It is for sale. We would love to have a jail there or anything else in any acreage they would desire, in 10 acres, 20 acres, 30 acres, 40 acres or 1 acre,” Schrohe said. “I think what is different ... [the former owners] were not willing to subdivide, and we are willing to subdivide,” Schrohe said.

Commissioner Brad Anderson said the county has its own property and must move forward in the face of pressure resulting from a federal, class-action lawsuit.

“We own the property. The speed of getting things done, as it is already in our name — we can start work [on a new jail]” as soon as possible, Anderson said. “From the people I have spoken with, we think it is a good location for the city, and [the overall parcel] can be opened for other things to go there.

“We have interests from other people who are not afraid to build next to a jail,” Anderson said.

“There could be a park, a farmer’s market, splash pads ... different things that can go there that are community orientated,” he said. “And how much safer would it be to have police presence across from a park and by a park?”

Riverscape leaders and others have opposed the Prairieton Road site. 

Earlier this month, Wabash Valley Riverscape President Charlie Williams said he was disappointed by the county’s actions.

“The community spoke loudly before about the commissioners intentions, and they listened,” Williams said. “The Riverscape plan, which has been backed by the commissioners for a decade, is a vision to transform our community.”

“When Riverscape asked the commissioners to acquire the property, they did so with that vision in mind — to reuse the property along the river to improve our quality of place. Locating a jail on this property will hinder this community vision, and Riverscape opposes it.”

Marvel said he “applauds them [Riverscape] for what they are trying to do, but the International Paper property will never be able to be used for riverfront. You can’t motor up to that property, and it is 30 feet in the air from the river.”

Marvel suggested Riverscape or private developers pursue the purchase of property that currently houses a Honda dealership, as land that will be available when the dealership moves to a new location.

Anderson said that location is not big enough for a single-story jail as proposed, but is better suited for private development.

“That land connects to the park and to the river, which is better than the International Paper site, which is a half mile from the river,” he said.

Related Stories:
• New Vigo County Jail plan proposed - sort of: But man with plan, county having hard time connecting
• Federal court orders Vigo County to increase jail staffing
• Cass County jail project may cause tax increase
• Vigo County Council OKs funds for jail positions following federal court order
• Huntington County Council passes 0.2 percent jail tax

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