Criminal justice center bids due by noon on Friday

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 19, 2014)-- Friday at noon, the three developers bidding to build the city's $500 million criminal justice center must submit their final plans.

In 2018 a new jail, sheriff's office, courts complex and community corrections facility will be opened on the site of the former General Motors stamping plant on Oliver Street southwest of downtown Indianapolis.

The three finalists have spent the last couple months refining their proposals.

"They were telling us, if the goal was to increase space in one area versus another, they were making recommendations from their expertise on the ways we could best maximize those efficiencies," said Mayoral Spokesman Marc Lotter. "Each of the bidding firms has local and national and international partners who have expertise in building buildings similar to this, financing, operations, contracting, engineering, all of them are a combination of multiple firms."

The winning bidder must agree to deliver a center based on the city's needs, lease it to the taxpayers for 35 years and then turn the keys over to the mayor in 2053.

"The money that we can pay is based on efficiencies in saving money from transporting inmates back and forth from multiple facilities, consolidating the jails, the medical services, the kitchens, the laundries, all of those kinds of things," said Lotter. "We're not bearing any of the risk as taxpayers. It falls to this winning organization to be able to build the building, to keep it up to our standards that we are specifying in the documents and then delivering a nearly new facility that is currently modern and updated to us at the end of that 35 year period and still pay the bills and pay off the loans that they have taken out to build it in the first place."

It's that longtime lease and huge construction project that has the endorsement of the current mayor of Indianapolis and the doubts of the man who would replace him.

"It will be a new building and we can build it to specifications, maybe put new technology in it which will be huge," said Mayor Greg Ballard. "We'll be able to put all those pieces together and not have to pay rent to a lot of other places we have to pay rent to right now so all of that should work. The intent of all that, people have been trying to figure this out again for two or three decades. We think we have a model that works without raising taxes, obviously, and brings in all the technology, brings in all the space that we're going to need, and then all these other jails and courts we can shut down."

The proposals, which have been shrouded in secrecy for competitive reasons, are worrisome to democrat Joe Hogsett who announced his candidacy for mayor last week.

"I believe the entire process thus far has been clouded in less than transparency," he said. "Over the next few weeks and months more disclosure is going to be made by the city about the details surrounding particularly the financing of the criminal justice center.

"The city county council has not been provided with what I consider to be basic financial information about something they're going to be asked to vote upon very shortly so I would encourage the city to speed up the process of disclosure so we have time to review the financials and then make decisions accordingly."

The structure of the deal will be similar to the plan that delivered the Regional Operations Center to the city in 2012 but at 20 times the cost.

The ROC has been mired in workmanship and political controversy ever since and the subject of a city county council committee investigation.

"It was a unique set of circumstances that kind of put those together," said Ballard whose administration insisted the ROC be ready in February 2012 when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl. "Those rough edges that we had out there won't happen again because for some reason it got out of the norm in the process of putting the lease together things like that but I don't think that will apply to the criminal justice center because that will be a new building."

Current Public Safety Director Troy Riggs inherited the ROC when he took office and shut the building down in less than a year as a fire hazard to employees.

It has since been reopened.

Hogsett, who won't face election for almost a year, realizes the next mayor, and mayors for decades to come, will have to live with criminal justice center decisions made by Greg Ballard.

"First thing, I'm not going to allow over the next 12 months for a car wreck to be inherited."

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