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1/9/2019 12:20:00 PM
Vigo County looking at jail sites outside Terre Haute to avoid city zoning issues
Under consideration: Property behind the Honey Creek Mall which was once home to a driving range and golf course is being considered by the Vigo County Commissioners as the site for the new county jail. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza
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Under consideration: Property behind the Honey Creek Mall which was once home to a driving range and golf course is being considered by the Vigo County Commissioners as the site for the new county jail. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza

Howard Greninger, Tribune-Star

The Vigo County Board of Commissioners is looking outside the city of Terre Haute for a site for a new county jail, said Brad Anderson, who was elected president Tuesday in a reorganization of the board.

"We are in negotiations," Anderson said.

"You can't come out and say 'Hey, we want your place,' and then try to negotiate a price," Anderson said.

"Right now we are working on several different locations, talking to people, trying to figure out how much money we can spend and what it will cost us to do, as you have to have infrastructure come in -- water lines, sewer lines -- so where you build is very important," he said.

"It is not just the price of the property, it is what you have to do to improve that property," he said.

Anderson said the Honey Creek Mall property, which appears to be for sale, is not being considered.

"We have looked at several (sites) in the last few weeks. There is the Springhill property, which we already looked at before, there is some (property) on Haythorne (Avenue) we are looking at. And, of course the (former golf driving range behind the Honey Creek Mall) is still one of them we are looking at.

"We are looking outside the city limits. That avoids zoning issues with the city," Anderson said.

The Springhill property is across from the U.S. Penitentiary and is owned by Harlan Farms. That property had been considered, but would need special foundations due to ground near Honey Creek.

However, incoming Commissioner Brendan Kearns is advocating for another look at the existing jail site.

"I need to learn more about the current location. I (continue to) ... feel the best location is where it is, the government campus," Kearns said, adding he plans to visit jails with pod designs.

"I am going to do my research," Kearns said. "I need to make sure I make the right decision. I want to make sure it can or cannot go at the government campus. I have learned in the last six months there are advantages to putting it elsewhere, but also disadvantages, too, and there has to be a balance."

Logistics are a concern, he said.

"I plan to talk to every judge to see if logistics is a concern to them. You can do the teleconferencing (video arrangement). If the local judges aren't for it, we need to pay attention to what our judges want," Kearns said. "Transportation is an issue. The government campus has always been the government campus," he said. "The courthouse is there, city hall is and the jail is there."

"Commissioners have said for years that it is in too bad shape. It would be a disservice to the community to keep that thing going or even put money into it. If it is that bad that we are looking to build a new facility, that (building) has to go," Kearns said.

In addition, Kearns said he wants to see a staffing plan for a new jail as another consideration.

County Attorney Michael Wright said commissioners are to provide an update to a federal judge on its jail site progress by Jan. 14. Wright said he expects to have an update on the site, possibly by Thursday of this week.

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