|Councilor Mike McQuillen.|
City-County Council Democrats are commissioning an independent study on the proposed criminal justice center, much to the frustration of the mayor's office and Republicans.
While Democrats agree the county needs a new jail and criminal courthouse, they say they're wary of the way the mayor wants to finance it.
Democratic councilor Angie Mansfield said, "We believe it's important to have an independent analysis...we have to be able to afford this going forward."
Under the mayor's plan, Paris-based WMB Heartland Justice Partners would enter into a P3 or Public-Private Partnership to finance the project. (WMB was the winning bid from three finalists.)
WMB would build the $408 million justice center, [now estimated at over $500 million] then cover maintenance and operations with the city paying an annual service fee $46.8 million [now estimated at $50 million] over 35 years.
Mansfield said, "With something this costly, we should not be fast-tracking anything, because it's going to affect us for decades. If it's a good idea and has solid fiscal evidence behind it, then fine... but I think we need to do our due diligence."
Democrats will pay Umbaugh Financial $15,000 from the council budget to do the analysis, while Mansfield said they didn't need Republican approval to do so, Council Minority Leader Michael McQuillen said he was unaware of the study and "frustrated by it."
"This has been like a 17-18 month process. It's been transparent. We've included them in all of this... and then they don't include us in this decision to waste taxpayer money for another study...in my opinion, it's a last resort delay tactic," McQuillen said.It's been a "transparent" process, Mike? Really? The Ballard administration has refused to comply with open records laws relating to the bids, even after the public access counselor said details on the bids needed to be released. IBJ last November reported:
Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt has rejected the city of Indianapolis’ argument that a request for proposals could be withheld from public review, siding with IBJ.
The city on Oct. 17 released the final version of its RFP for its potentially $600 million criminal justice facility. But officials declined to release drafts created during an unusual public procurement process in which the city allowed vendors to review and comment on the RFP behind closed doors.
Britt concluded in a formal opinion issued Nov. 6 that the city should also release drafts of the document.
The city had denied IBJ's request, claiming the drafts fall under an exemption in the state's Access to Public Records act for "deliberative" documents.
Britt said he sought advice on public procurement law from several sources, “all of whom consider the City’s bidding practices in this situation to be irregular,” he wrote. “Irregularities notwithstanding, I am not compelled by the City’s assertion of the negotiation exception to disclosure in this instance.”As far as the amount the Democrats are going to pay on the report - $15,000, the Ballard administration entered into $12 million in no bid consulting contracts with respect to the Justice Center, even though the administration did not seek an appropriation from the council as required by Indiana law. This includes a $750,000 contract for public relations work to John Cochran, Ballard's former aide, even though Cochran, an attorney, had no experience with public relations work.
McQuillen opposed a move to cancel the $12 million in consulting contracts. Yet he is complaining about the Democrats spending $15,000 on a consultant to see if a project which will cost taxpayers an estimated $1.75 billion over the course of 35 years is worth it? Please, Mike. Spare us your hypocrisy. You have already demonstrated you have nothing but contempt for the Indianapolis taxpayers who have to foot the bill for all the tax increases and reckless corporate welfare spending you've supported while in office.