Commissioner defends lack of transparency on site selection process for new Allen County Jail

Allen County Commissioner Richard Beck talks about site selection
Allen County Commissioner Richard Beck talks about site selection(staff)
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 10:50 AM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Commissioner Richard Beck began Friday morning’s Allen County Commissioners meeting with discussion about site selection for a new Allen County Jail.  “The most difficult job in this whole jail thing is the site selection,” he said.  The rest of it is rather academic.  The architect draws what to build, the contractor builds it. The site selection is the most difficult piece.”

Beck says the process is unpredictable.  For example, he says the owner of an undisclosed piece of property backed out of discussions on a potential sale this week after commissioners had already gone through several phases of vetting on the property.

“If we announce a site, you’re going to upset a whole lot of people. Then we go through this process for the next 90 to 120 days trying to vet that process, and then we get to the end and we’re like, ‘Oh it isn’t going to work after all,’ and now we’ve got people who have been upset for three or four months and they didn’t need to be upset.,” Beck says. “You can see the turmoil that would have caused had we disclosed 120 days ago, this is what we’re looking at, people would have been possibly upset and then all of the sudden boom, well you didn’t need to be upset because it isn’t going to happen.”

Earlier this year, a U.S. District Court judge found in favor of the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit addressing myriad deficiencies at the Allen County Jail. His order demanded swift action by the sheriff and the county commissioners to address concerns that include overcrowding, staffing, and the treatment of inmates.

Then in July, the commissioners said expanding the current jail downtown was not an option. They suggested that a new jail be built on county-owned land at Paulding and Adams Center roads, as it would provide the space they need. That proposal was met with backlash from constituents.

The commissioners have been unwilling to publicly identify other potential sites they have or will be considering for the new jail. “We take a lot of criticism for the lack of transparency,  but it’s for a good reason that we do that. There’s no point in upsetting a group of folks that don’t need to be upset,” he says.