City County Council committee votes down proposed $1.7 billion justice complex

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 14, 2015) – The future of the proposed criminal justice complex was up for debate in front of a council committee Tuesday. Members listened to testimony and vote on the $1.7 billion project. The council voted against the project 6-2, sending it back to the drawing board.

After hours of testimony Tuesday night, the council committee voted down a proposal to approve a contract with WMB Heartland Justice Partners to design, build, operate and maintain the new Justice Complex over a 35-year lease.

The matter was before the Rules and Public Policy Committee as the public debate continues to grow. On Monday, Prosecutor Terry Curry spoke out against the project. The Indy Chamber released a statement the next day showing its support and urging council members to act.

There was testimony from members of the Mayor’s administration, and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, who told council members, that the existing set up of the jail and courthouse building in downtown Indianapolis is dangerous and run down, and requires major updates.

Supporters of the proposal also testified that the project would have led to major economic development and job creation in a part of the city that could use it.

Those claims though were not enough to convince council members, many who agree that a new criminal justice complex needs to be built, felt this proposal was not the right one.

“I think it just came down to the financing. My colleagues did not agree with the financing and the shortfalls and we’ve asked for additional information from the stakeholders and just wasn’t getting those answers addressed properly. We go back to the drawing board. I applaud the administration for sticking to this and seeing it through, however there are still so many questions that need to be answered,” said City County Council President, Maggie Lewis

Mayor Greg Ballard appeared on the FOX59 morning show and continued to push for the project. He’s promised the new building will save money due to efficiencies.

“If you want to delay it, all you’re going to do is put it back into the political system, which is what we’ve been trying not to do, and it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars more. It’ll have tremendous amount of political patronage and that’s what’s going to happen,” said Mayor Ballard.

City-County Council leadership commissioned a financial analysis of the proposed justice complex. Findings showed a projected multimillion dollar shortfall over the first eight years of the project. The report also shows the city could save $516 million during the lease by providing its own maintenance and contractor.

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