Mayor pushes council to reconsider Criminal Justice Center plan

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 10, 2015) — City-County Council sources told FOX59 News that Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration has put on a full court press to revive his stalled criminal justice center plan.

The mayor needs to line up 15 council votes Monday night to amend the body’s agenda and bring the $1.8 billion, 35-year lease back for a vote.

Council Republicans will meet in caucus at 5:30 p.m. in an attempt to hold a unified minority that would still leave the GOP one vote short of the majority it needs to seek a full council ballot.

Justice center supporters are hoping to persuade one or two Democrats to join them in opening the agenda and calling the project down for a vote.

Republican councilman Ben Hunter recently joined critics of the plan in calling for a delay in its approval until a new mayor and council are sworn in next year.

The council will also hold a public hearing to rezone the former General Motors property at South White River Parkway West Drive at Oliver Street for the project, which would be built for $400 million by a private developer and leased back to the city with ownership eventually passing to the taxpayers.

Critics successfully derailed the proposal last month as it was reported out of committee without a recommendation by raising doubts about the financing model.

The mayor said consolidations and reduced overhead would make the project revenue neutral, but councilors were troubled by a lack of clear spending reduction promises by county agencies.

The developer, WMB Heartland Partners, has until May 20 to lock in its current financing commitments to make the current plan work.

In related public safety issues, the council will consider reallocating $2.5 million to pay benefits and salaries for IMPD’s new police recruits.

Councilors may also vote a subpoena to force the administration to hand over all contracts, bids and working agreements related to the city’s $32 million lease of 425 electric cars.

Seventy cars have already been assigned, many of them to IMPD administrative and non-patrol personnel to replace full-size sedans, with the department set to take delivery of another 70 cars this month.

Deputy Chief Brian Roach recently told a City-County Council committee that IMPD was becoming hard pressed to find officers whose duties would make them eligible to drive the smaller Chevy Volts, Ford Fusions or Nissan Leaf models.

IMPD and council sources told FOX59 News that the cars are impractical for the department’s fleet and cannot store all the gear an officer needs to do his or her job.

The administration told councilors that by replacing ten percent of the city’s fleet with electric cars, Indianapolis’ air pollution problems would be addressed while reducing overall costs, even though the city would not retain ownership of the vehicles at the end of the seven-year agreement.

An analysis by council Democrats showed the cost of an electric car would exceed the final tab on a standard vehicle by at least $10,000.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said he was never consulted about the changeover to the alternative fuel cars though a Department of Public Works administrator told councilors otherwise.