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Council committee signs off on review board for proposed justice center

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - There are more twists and turns in Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to build a $1.6 billion justice complex. A city county committee voted in favor of setting up a justice complex board to review the deal. It's a deal that's drawn criticism ever since it was announced in December.

That was when the mayor and others made the announcement that the city selected a Paris-based company, WMB Heartland Justice Partners, to build the new Marion County Justice Center, with a cost of $408 million and the city paying for it for 35 years, to the tune of $47 million each year.

"This will be an opportunity to dive in deeper and get the information that we do have and start looking and what we can afford and what we cannot afford," said Maggie Lewis, City-County Council President.

The board will have two representatives appointed by the mayor's office and two appointed by the City-County County President. The sheriff, or a designee, will also sit on the board, along with a non-voting member from Superior Court.

The board's recommendation to the full council is non-binding.

"People just want to make sure the money's right, and it's going to be there," said John Layton, Marion County Sheriff.

More questions about the deal have come up in the past few days. Some councillors want to delay the issue until after the election.

The Marion County Clerk said in a letter she's concerned about being asked about making staffing cuts to fund the criminal justice center, to the tune of $700,000 dollars.

"I have been assured there's no reduction of staff or sheriff's deputies at this point," said Layton.

The full council meets Monday and can approve the justice center board. A spokesperson for Mayor Ballard said Tuesday it is their goal to have the deal sealed by May. However, the council president said the board will have as much time as they want.

"The board could take all the time they need. I can't see them getting to the bottom of this or understanding the numbers in two meetings. They will need more time than that," said Lewis.