Next steps taken for Thomson PUD as potential site of new Monroe County jail

The consensus was pretty clear among county officials who met on Tuesday at the county courthouse: They want to take steps towards making the Thomson PUD the site of the county’s new correctional facility.

The Thomson PUD is the county-owned property west of Rogers Street and south of Catalent.

Those next steps include doing a geotechnical analysis of the property, starting conversations with Bloomington’s planning department about zoning requirements, and talking to immediate neighbors.

Next steps also include getting an appraisal done on some land that the county does not own.

The land not yet owned by the county government is wedged between the Thomson PUD and Catalent along Strong Drive, which would be one of the access points to the new jail.

Tuesday’s gathering was a publicly noticed meeting of the county council and the county commissioners, but no formal votes were taken on a decision about the Thomson PUD property. Several other officials had been invited.

On Tuesday, three other possibilities for a new jail site, besides the Thomson property, were reviewed for the group by Jeff Hirsch and Scott Carnegie with DLZ. That’s the design-build firm the county has selected for the jail project.

One of the other sites was the planned new Hopewell neighborhood, which is to be built where the IU Health hospital previously stood, at 2nd and Rogers streets. The idea of allocating some of the Hopewell area to a new jail, instead of new housing, did not resonate at all with city councilmembers at their Aug. 11 work session.

One plus for the Hopewell site is the fact that it is inside the city limits and centrally located near existing services.

The other two potential sites are not inside the city limits, and had previously been described as only somewhere in the I-69 corridor. Their specific locations were unveiled at Tuesday’s meeting. One is to the south of Arlington Road and SR 46, and the other is a site to the south of Monroe Hospital. Neither of those sites appeared to have any traction with meeting attendees.

The Thomson PUD land was originally purchased by the county government in 2002 for $1.261 million with an eye towards constructing a juvenile justice facility there.  That construction never happened.

More recently, the land was the subject of an agreement between the county commissioners and Catalent. Under the agreement, approved by commissioners in March 2022,  for two years, Monroe County government has to negotiate with Catalent first, before improving the property or selling it to someone other than Catalent.

But under the terms of the resolution, Catalent has to be making sufficient progress towards its planned investments in connection with a tax abatement granted by the city of Bloomington. That seems like it’s an open question.  In any case, the clock on that agreement has just seven more months to run.

Speaking against the Thomson PUD site was Habitat for Humanity CEO Wendi Goodlett, who pointed to the Osage Place development that broke ground in June of 2021.

Osage Place is located on the southeastern edge of the Thomson site. Goodlett told the group that when Osage Place is built out, there will be 69 taxpaying families living in their communities. She noted that all Habitat families are members of one or more marginalized populations—because of their income, the type of job they hold, their level of education, their race, their gender, their sexual orientation and or their nationality.

Goodlett said, “Building a jail on the Thompson property would once again marginalize the families that we have all worked so hard to lift up.” She continued, “It will marginalize the children who attend Summit Elementary. It will be a concrete daily reminder that they are vulnerable.”

She added, “We would not be having this conversation, if the county-owned was adjacent to a wealthy neighborhood.”

Goodlett’s remarks appeared to resonate at least somewhat with the decision makers in the room, even if they weren’t moved off their basic inclination in favor of the Thomson property as a place to build a new jail.

County councilor Jennifer Crossley said she wanted to make sure the immediate neighbors were heard, and that would mean going to meet with them where they are, not expecting them to attend a meeting at the county courthouse.

Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté and Monroe County circuit court presiding judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff were two key voices in the room on Tuesday, which appeared to carry a lot of weight with the councilors and commissioners.

For Marté, the key point in favor of the Thomson property was that it offered enough space to run the various programs that are needed inside the jail, without having to stack the facility on multiple stories. A concern for the sheriff now is that if the elevator breaks down, it means carrying everything, like three meals a day, up and down the stairs.

Diekhoff told the group that for the judges, the biggest concern is for the courts to be co-located with the jail and to have the new correctional facility as close to support services as possible. The Thomson site appears to be the best option to be co-located in a place that is still close to service providers, Diekhoff said.

Several attendees indicated a sense of urgency to make some forward progress. Even if everything were to go forward smoothly at this point, Monroe County councilor Peter Iversen estimated a move-in date around 2028. “I think the sooner that we move forward, the better,” Iversen said.

With the location settled, it would be easier to estimate the square footage, Iversen said. Once the square footage is known, it will be easier to make an estimate of the cost for a correction facility, courts, and possibly a treatment facility.

Iversen is part of the county council’s three-member justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC) that is supposed to adopt a recommendation on funding to the full council. The scheduled meeting date  for adoption of the JFAC’s funding recommendation is Sept. 18.

At their Wednesday morning work session, county commissioners approved $19,100 worth of contracts  that reflect the next steps that emerged out of the Tuesday meeting.

One agreement was with Vet Environmental ($4,750) for a Phase 1 environmental assessment and site reconnaissance for the Thomson property, as well as for the nearby parcel that is not yet owned by the county government.

A second agreement was with First Appraisal Group ($2,500) for an appraisal of the roughly 5-acre property that the county government will be looking to buy.

A third agreement was with Patriot Engineering ($11,850) for geotechnical engineering of the Thomson property.

The construction of a new jail, at a location different from the current one at College Avenue and 7th Street, is the county government’s response to the work of two consultants,  delivered two years ago. The reports from the consultants concluded that the current county jail facility, at 7th Street and College Avenue, is failing to provide constitutional levels of care.

3 thoughts on “Next steps taken for Thomson PUD as potential site of new Monroe County jail

  1. Why is it that the inmates can’t be transported to the facilities it needs extra services at? That’s what they do now correct? Don’t ruin historic neighborhoods and new parks by putting a place where your gonna keep degenerates at next door. I agree with Wendi with Habitat for Humanity. I personally don’t want it near our neighborhood and also didn’t want to have 3 treatment centers at my back property line, but that’s what has happened. I am sympathetic to everyone needing services to help them be better citizens but where do you draw the line and at what cost to our youth do you stiffel their futures? Having to not be able to use your full yard due to Cornerstone Rehab facilities being butted up against your back yard and 10 guys smoking like freight trains where your kids can’t even play in their own yard. Come visit and see for yourself what having places like that and a jail do to neighborhoods. Treatment centers buying up neighborhoods and racing up and down your neighborhood roads in a Gator all day. What happens if someone escapes or decides to just walk away from these places? Please reconsider your placement of it.

  2. Room for Growth – Growing Green Housing; as we seek sites for a tiny home ecovillage that doubles as green collar jobs and places for living eco homes below market rate, both the new and former jail sites should include space for urban agritecture that instills an eco ethic and incorporates vocational training, social services and means to autonomy and health like solarization and food production with folks with a record in mind who are often locked out of the economy once convicted.
    Do we know what the plan is for the current jail site, aside from throwing it to hoteliers and typical overpriced conventional high rise apt complex developers? A dense eco condo complex for low income populations could counter the stats that have BeeTown listed as the most expensive place to live in the state of Indiana and devote room in the City center for populations currently priced unto and past the perimeter, enabling car free living, nixing commutes for poorer people.
    Especially for folks who don’t qualify for Habitat homes, alternatives are needed that depart from models that forsake environmental considerations, ignore the looming challenge of climate change, mass extractions, disruption of supply chains and the food supply.
    Holistic Affordable Housing is getting interest from County officials more than City officials at this point. We welcome any input, inquiries about our plans to transform the paradigm.
    Thanks for the replete coverage of municipal machinations and government processes.

  3. i’m glad the county is moving forward with a relatively palatable location. i believe this sort of facility belongs downtown, just like the courthouse does. but this is a reasonable compromise. or anyways, it’s better than i feared.

    i’m not moved by people trying to avoid having it by their neighborhood or their school. we live in a city. there will be things by your neighborhood. we should demand that the jail be a good neighbor but we can’t ship this problem away. if we’re looking at the future of our children, *SOME OF THOSE CHILDREN WILL GO TO JAIL AND THEIR FUTURE MATTERS TOO*. a jail and related services that is physically integrated into our community is essential to the rehabilitative mission of the jail.

    i’m frankly disappointed by myriad choices made by MCCSC. i realized, putting all the pieces together, MCCSC is running a rural school district. what? but look at where our highschools are. my kid’s in the 6th grade band program so he has to go to the north side of the bypass twice a week??? why??? we can’t teach kids how to toot a horn in the city??? north HS has literally zero bike and ped connections to the rest of the city. Kinser pike in front of BHSN, S Walnut in front of BHSS, the bypass in front of Arlington Heights…hideous unsafe streets that discourage independent transport, cause injuries, and cause pollution. MCCSC simply does not care about the most essential vital functions of the land around their schools. these transportation facilities actually perpetrate a systematic harm against our kids. even Fairview Elementary, in the city, doesn’t give a crap about making unsafe conditions on all of the neighborhood streets around.

    if MCCSC can’t even be arsed to give even the tiniest nod towards a safe routes to school program, why would we let them determine our major urban planning priorities? MCCSC is the bad neighbor, not the other way around.

    compared to the harm caused by these poor transportation choices, a jail facility >600ft from school grounds simply doesn’t stack up as a concern. people only oppose the jail because of the class optics around it. they don’t want “those people” around but they happily turn a blind eye to much more substantive harms.

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