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Ask The Mayor: Terre Haute's Bennett On Midterm Election, Jail Site

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Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says it's not the right time to say whether he'll run for mayor in 2019. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Bennett talks midterm elections and we ask whether he'll run again in 2019, updates on a new downtown police station and his take on the county jail site. Plus more on the ISU homecoming fights.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: Midterm elections last week produced a new Vigo County Sheriff. John Plasse who is now the Terre Haute Police Chief won a new seat during what will be a transitional time for the sheriff's department. How will that transition go?

Bennett: Yeah, I'll be appointing a new police chief for the Terre Haute police department. He's going to do a great job over there. It will be a great partnership, we have a great partnership now but I look for that to continue and blossom even more. We want to keep combating the drugs in our community and crime and we're all in this together.

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Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse now Vigo County Sheriff-elect. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: I have to throw this out there, next year is a mayoral election year here in Terre Haute, are you ready to state any intentions yet?

Bennett: I'll be making an announcement soon. I wanted to get through that election cycle, I think it's inappropriate to be a part of that - to overcome that. They have their time, we have our time. Now that that's behind us, then I'll be talking about my future here very shortly.

Hren: We have to talk about the jail since that's been making headlines all over the place. The commissioners are seeking to rezone the paper mill site, if that goes through - is that the official place of the new jail?

Bennett: Well that's where they'd like to be. The question is if the city council decides not to rezone it, then they're going to have to pick another location. Right now, that's their number one site. Then the county council will have to go ahead and fund the rest of this project. That's the last big step for the location.

I don't know what the vote is going to be. Right now, I don't know if it will pass or not.

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The proposed jail would be located at the former International Paper Mill site off Prairieton Road. (Photo: DLZ Corporation)

Hren: I saw a news release from Indiana State University a few weeks ago regarding the homecoming fights that resulted in some ugly moments downtown and a shooting. It read the city will also be looking into the situation, what happened?

Bennett: It's something we've not seen before. They have what's called 'The Walk' where people like to go from the bars downtown to the stadium. This year it seemed more people came from out of town, weren't interested in the football game, but more interested in the party atmosphere. As they marched down Wabash Avenue, we had some fights break out and we had to respond.

Well then a fight broke out across the street at a gas station. And then that night a party situation where some gun shots took place. Our focus will be how we manage that crowd that doesn't go into the game. And how to reduce the number of places to drink alcohol. It's these tents that pop up that get a temporary license and selling alcohol. We had another eight or ten that popped up. And from the police perspective, we're going to have to ramp things up.

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The Hulman Center on the Indiana State University campus. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: Any updates on the convention center? I see there will be a Larry Bird museum as part of this project.

Bennett: That's official, yes. It will be another destination, the convention center and the museum. Not anything to tell you quite yet. We have a meeting coming up next week that I hope we'll be able to put more information out. We're not offically ready to announce the location because we're still doing some due diligence there.

Hren: Margaret Avenue should be complete soon?

Bennett: December as long as the weather holds up for a few more weeks, we'll be able to do that.

Hren: Leaf pickup?

Bennett: Starts next week. We'll put a schedule out this week, we had to wait until the majority of leaves fell. We'll make one pass, then we'll come back around and hit some touch-up areas.

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