Marion County justice complex decision could come at last minute

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The Indianapolis City-County Council could push the closing of a $1.6 billion deal for a new criminal justice complex to the last minute.

Mayor Greg Ballard and his preferred vendor, WMB Heartland Justice Partners, hope to see the council sign off by March 31, but it now looks like the council vote won’t happen until April 20, at the earliest.

All the of the prices included in WMB’s bid, submitted in mid-November, are good for six months, so the firm would have to close the deal by mid-May, WMB spokesman Brad Rateike said. It takes about four weeks from the elected body's final approval to prepare for financial close of the deal, he said.

“I think we could fit it in just under the wire,” Ratieke said.

The Democrat-majority council plans to have WMB’s proposal reviewed by a new five-member panel, the Marion County Justice Complex Board, but that committee hasn’t yet been created. Proposal No. 24, which sets up the board, wasn’t heard in committee on Jan. 27, so it won’t be heard before the full council Feb. 9, said Fred Biesecker, general counsel to the council.

Meanwhile, frustrated Republicans have filed a resolution, which will be heard Feb. 9, for council support of the WMB bid. Thirteen of the council’s 14 Republican members sponsored the resolution. Republican Christine Scales, who is not part of the council’s Republican caucus, is not a sponsor.

Despite the Democrats’ delay, Biesecker thinks the review board will be created, hold a public hearing and vote by the end of March. If the board selects WMB by the end of March, its recommendation would go to the full council, which meets April 20.

Republicans could fast-track creating the review board if they can gather 15 votes. A majority of the council can call for a vote on any proposal, even if it is stuck in committee. Minority Leader Michael McQuillen couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday morning about the process.

Ballard’s administration originally planned to put the WMB proposal before the Board of Public Safety, but that board, chaired by Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, doesn’t have the authority to approve contracts on behalf of the Marion County Sheriff or judges, Biesecker said.

The administration and council agreed to create the review board, which will have two appointees by the mayor, two appointees by the council and the sheriff as its chairman.

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