Probation, Juvenile Centers Seen as Obstacles in LSA

(posted Mar 21)

Court Administrator Glenn Lawrence accepted responsibility for keeping Pike Township residents and elected officials in the dark for more than a year about relocating a probation office, lock-up, and juvenile center in the retail center at 3733 Commercial Drive. Lawrence, Northwest Probation staff, and Marion County Superior Traffic Court Judge William Young explained their plans and faced some fiery comments from residents and elected officials at the March 18 meeting unveiling the plan. The meeting was only six days before the Administration and Finance Committee meets to approve the lease.

Lawrence told worried residents that he made an "assumption" the probation center would be welcome since it has been located in the 3500 block of Lafayette Road since 2002.

"I'll take the bullet or the buck stop here for not discussing it with the community," Lawrence said.

He said the building has been vacant five to seven years and that his intentions were to help revitalize the area by occupying about 25,000 square feet. He could not answer if Mayor Ballard was aware of the plans.

City County Councilor Doris Minton-McNeil thinks it will detour merchants from coming into area and be counter productive to the revitalization effort. She said the Lafayette Square Area Coalition members should be outraged with his comments about long-term vacancy due to their commitment to rebuild the area.

"We are fighting tooth and nail to grow our community," Minton-McNeil said. She commented that Speedway is revitalizing its town and it is doubtful Speedway or Carmel would accept the plan. "Ask them if they would welcome a situation like this. I bet you they wouldn't. I bet you Carmel would not welcome a situation like this."

Judge Young explained that they have not been very diligent in explaining their requirements, but they are limited in places as to where they can locate. He said that having a tenant "like us" would be a stabilizing factor in the community.

Judge Young clarified that the lockup is not a jail and described it as nothing more than a closet to detain people until they are transported to jail. He did not expect the holding duration to be much more than an hour until the detainees are transported. Young assured the group there would be no co-mingling between adults and juveniles being served in the same facility.

Margaret Arthur of the Eagledale Neighborhood Association did not have a problem with proposed probation center. She thought it would increase retail business from people shopping since the traffic court expects to serve 800 to 900 people a day.

Mike McCormack, Wayne Township Assessor, said that 10th and Post, where the current traffic court is located, is not thriving in retail, nor is Keystone Avenue and 25th Street where the juvenile detention center is. He encouraged the court administrator to look at the east side of the airport area as a better fit because it is neither retail nor residential.

Councilor Jose Evans opposed the probation center coming to the area. "I don't want the probation in my district. You are bringing criminals into my district," he said.

Susan Blair, president of Pike Township Resident Association, asked if the court could be located in C-5 zoning. She thinks the area's use as a retail center could be jeopardized. "I think your location is bad for what this is area is trying to achieve," Blair said.

Lafayette Square Area Coalition President Mary Clark indicated the current probation office location may have led to the retailers leaving the strip center. She thought it might be a possibility that probationers were crossing the street causing some of the thefts that made retailers vacate.

State Representative Cherrish Pryor said that elected officials should have been apprised of the plan. She does not see economic development coming because the probationers are already reside in the area. "We don't want to have another black spot in the area."

Tom Megenhardt of R. P. Lux, who assisted Lawrence with finding the location, said that other businesses are waiting to sign leases once this lease is executed. He did not identify the businesses, but assured that the group that the traffic court and probation center would encourage other businesses to come because it generates a high number of people.

State Representative Jeb Bardon said he has spent the last ten years trying to help residents revitalize area. He talked about the Holt Road extension as a possibility to revitalize the area. "We've had discussions with the Town of Speedway. Glenn's wife is the town manager down there."

He explained that Commercial Drive is one of the primary choices for the Holt Road extension because it leads into the south end of the mall. "It is our gateway." He said wonderful things are happening in the area, including $750,000 of CRED money coming to the area.

He was disappointed that it is the 11th hour and the lease is waiting to be signed. He feels that it is difficult to address the issue "at this point in the game."

Councilor Marilyn Pfisterer attested that she and Bardon are working on resources to obtain funds for the Holt Road extension "as far north as we can possibly bring it." She asked people who pray to put the Holt Road expansion on their prayer list "because we've had some people to step up about property willing to donate to that effort."