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Councillors discuss future of Justice Center plan

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Republican councillor says a push is underway to save Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s $1.75 billion plan for a new Justice Center, but some council Democrats say the proposed plan would not be cost-effective.

Republican Councillor Mike McQuillen said he spent part of his Wednesday making phone calls and trying to convince his colleagues that the mayor’s plan is the right move.

McQuillen is one of two Republicans who voted for the project in a committee meeting Tuesday. Six Democrats voted against. But McQuillen said Wednesday the plan is not dead.

“It would take 15 councillors to step up to the plate on Monday night and say, ‘Yes we want to hear this proposal.’ We want to take one more look and see if we can move forward,” Councillor McQuillen said.

Among the six who voted against: Councillor John Barth. He agrees a new justice center is needed.

“The issue is, how do we pay for it?” Barth said Wednesday.

Mayor Ballard says the project will pay for itself with savings and new revenue. But Barth disagrees, and he’s concerned the plan would require a tax increase. He says he wants city officials to find a more cost-effective solution.

“I think what you’re seeing among Democrats is a real focus on fiscal discipline and making sure we have the money to pay for it,” Councillor Barth said Wednesday.

McQuillen said he’s confident the plan will not require a tax increase, and he says he’s optimistic that 15 councillors will support it Monday. But he knows time is not on his side.

“We’re on a very close timeline,” he said. “If we don’t get this passed at Monday’s meeting, I’m afraid the deal will fall apart.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said Wednesday, “The administration is very disappointed in the outcome of last night’s committee meeting. We are continuing to work with councilors in the days leading up to Monday’s full council meeting.”

Council President Maggie Lewis also voted against the plan Tuesday. After the vote, she released a statement reading in part, “When considering such a long-term proposal with such a large price tag, I believe we owe it to taxpayers to be thoughtful and cautious in our decision-making.”