Commissioners select top choice for new jail property; Not all are happy

Proposed new Allen County jail location
Proposed new Allen County jail location(WPTA)
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 4:54 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - Months of decision making came down to Wednesday morning’s special session meeting. Allen County commissioners selected the former International Harvester Technology Center property, 2911 Meyer Rd., as the site for the new jail.

Architecture firm Elevatus rated four different properties for things like property size and proximity to the county court house, among other criteria.

The Meyer Rd. location on Fort Wayne’s east side ranked first. The original proposed site at Adams Center Rd. and Paulding Rd. ranked second.

County commissioner Rich Beck, republican, says the commissioners knew the original site, close to Prince Champan Academy, was not the best location for a new jail.

That site, encouraged angry neighbors to protest, and led to tense moments during commissioner meetings.

Beck explained, “Quite frankly, we know it was not the right spot from the beginning because we have plans for horse trails going in there and that’s been documented. We had a news conference last June that that was the intent for that property. So, it was forced upon us by the court system. We had to declare a piece of property, and that was it.”

Still, Wednesday’s decision leaves some unsatisfied for multiple reasons.

The group Help not Handcuffs is opposed to a new jail. It’s members want a focus on keeping people out of jail and into treatment programs.

“Every twenty, thirty years, we as a county decide we need to brush up the way we’re incarcerating people, and often the way we brush up is we expand it and make it into a new architectural model,” HNH organizer Audrey Davis said. “That’s just going to be how we continue down the path unless we start to implement best practices and alternatives to incarceration. "

The group is also upset at the timing of the decision. Davis says the commissioners were trying to slide the decision under the radar without anyone noticing.

The commissioners have insisted a new jail is needed, but they agree that mental health treatment must be an important part of that new jail.

“The local jail has become the mental health institution and it’s not what it should be, and so the entire country has to deal with this issue. We’re taking the steps we know to take to get this resolved,” Beck says.

Davis explained, “We stand very much thankful that we have a community of activism in Fort Wayne that was able to make sure that our voices were heard and that the southeast side was taken off the table, but we know that there’s much more fight still to come.”

The county commissioners attorney will negotiate a purchase agreement for the land. That agreement has to be in place prior to the next federal hearing on December 16th.