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Terre Haute City Council Votes Down Proposed County Jail Location

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The council voted against the rezoning request by an 8 to 1 vote. (Alex Eady, WTIU/WFIU News)

The Terre Haute City Council voted against rezoning land on Prairieton Road Thursday night to make way for a new Vigo County jail. 

The vote was 8-1, with Council member Don Morris casting the only vote in favor of the site.

Residents at Thursday's meeting spoke on both sides of the issue.

Opponents expressed concerns that the proposed site would threaten efforts to improve of the city’s riverfront, which the site borders. Terre Haute resident Ralph Leck says the city’s riverfront development initiative, Riverscape, should take priority.

"The one vision we had in this community for rehabilitating our economy has been Riverscape and they want to get rid of that," Leck says.

Other residents, like James Kmetz supported the proposed site and said delaying the decision will cost the city more time and money.

"It's logic," Kmetz says. "It’s a great place for the jail. It’s not going to affect anyone’s access to the river there’s still plenty of space between the river and the jail."

County Attorney Michael Wright also rejected claims that the site was not up to environmental code standards. Officials say they have completed core sample testing throughout the site to show the land is safe to build on.

Council President Curtis DeBaun says he appreciates the public feedback, but the argument against the rezoning was most compelling.

"I felt like it would be a true opportunity cost if we put a jail at that property. There are other potential alternative locations that I think should be considered," DeBaun says. 

Vigo County Commissioners first proposed the Prairieton property last year but later withdrew the option after pushback from the public. In October, the commissioners decided to reconsider the site to house the $66 million jail.

In order to secure the site, the City Council needed to approve a request to rezone the 64-acre property from an industrial to a penitentiary zoning class.

Now County Commissioners have the option to appeal the council decision or present a proposal for a new site.

County officials will also have to present a status report to a federal judge on the progress of the proposed new jail by Dec. 19.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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