Scaled-back criminal justice center could have new life at next City-County Council meeting

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (June 3,2015) -- The developers behind the proposed criminal justice center are coming back to the table with a revised plan. Mayor Greg Ballard's push for a new criminal justice center died last month before it reached a City-County Council vote.

Initially, several councilors voiced their concerns over the scale and price of the project. WMB Heartland Justice Partners, the company selected to execute the project, went back to the drawing board and are now introducing a plan that hopefully answers some of the fiscal concerns.

The former GM stamping plant was chosen as the location for the new justice center. It was a $1.75 billion agreement over 35 years.

"When we hear criticisms like this, it's natural for us to step back and see what we can do to  make this a little bit better," said Joe Aiello, a partner with Meridiam.

Aiello says the new plan cuts costs by about $17.5 million.

"There's a crying need to fix this and we believe the councilors will take an extra look at it."

While both Democrats and Republicans agree on the need to fix the aging Marion County Jail and out-dated City-County building--the question is how.

"I was willing to sign off even on the original one," said Republican Councilor Jeff Miller.

The revision calls for about 450 fewer beds inside the Marion County Jail and combines both the sheriff's office and the courthouse.

Aiello tells FOX59 the new plan will reduce construction costs down to $390 million from $408 million.

"I  really do hope that on Monday night we take a vote on this and I would love for this to pass. I do think we owe the taxpayers a vote," said Miller.

The developers are urging that the new plan be introduced and passed during the council meeting on June 8. If it fails to go through, construction costs and financing could rise.

However, one of the project's initial supporters is now shifting his position. Marion County Sheriff John Layton is asking the council to refrain from voting until a new mayor is sworn in.

“I continue to be fearful of the City/County’s financial plight. The last thing our newly elected leaders need is a financial burden that will handcuff their future options. I thank those that have worked hard on this project, but it is time to stop and consider other options. Thus, I add my voice to those who say that just as ‘haste makes waste’; we owe it to the tax payers, who desperately need enhanced public safety, to get this proposal right. The CJPC is the perfect body to help make a proper determination in a proper fashion," said Layton.

"I have a lot of respect for Sheriff Layton and what he does for the city, but  I don't understand  the turnaround on this," said Miler.

Council President Maggie Lewis also has her doubts. She released a statement voicing her concerns.

"I am concerned by the release of a new Justice Center proposal with only days left before the City-County Council will be asked to consider the new deal. And I’m even more troubled by statements from our law enforcement leaders who are now rejecting the proposal in its entirety.

"From the beginning, Councilors from both parties have been clear that we need a fiscally-responsible solution to our outdated criminal justice facilities, and the process by which that solution is crafted should be open and transparent. The last-second release of a new and materially different proposal appears to fail on both counts. This is not how this City nor this Council should do business.

"As I have previously said, there is widespread agreement on the pressing need to address our out-of-date, inefficient facilities. Rather than continue to spend valuable time and tax dollars in attempting to salvage this failed proposal, the Council and Marion County stakeholders should move forward and re-double our commitment to finding a long-term, cost-effective solution to this critical public safety need."

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