The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

December 29, 2011

State decides to sell farmland near Pendleton prisons

Reske: Property sale will decrease 'buffer zone'

PENDLETON, Ind. — The upcoming sale of nine tracts of land surrounding the Pendleton Correctional Facility has a state representative concerned for the safety of residents of Pendleton and Ingalls.

Rep. Scott Reske, D-Pendleton, said on Thursday that the sale would cut in half a buffer zone between Pendleton’s Maple Ridge Elementary School and the town’s two prison facilities.

“Look at aerial photos, the reformatory and where the elementary is seem very close to each other,” Reske said.

The property will be auctioned Jan. 19 at the Garden Hotel in Anderson. Originally, 851 acres were to be sold. However, the Department of Correction has donated one parcel of land to the town of Pendleton.

Reske believes that once the land is sold and becomes private property, prison guards will stop patrolling those areas.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Administration, which manages the state’s real estate leases, said that will not be the case.

“The Department of Correction will continue the same patterns of patrols, there will be no lack of patrol in the area (Reske) is concerned about,” Connie Smith, the spokeswoman, said.

Smith said the Department of Administration decided to sell the land, because it was no longer being farmed by correctional facility staff and inmates.

“We felt the best use would be to return the properties to Madison County,” Smith said.

Smith said the land sale will add 658 acres to the county’s tax base.

“There’s surplus land, they need the money, I totally agree. But state policy says that ground should stay under public control,” Reske said.

Reske said the DOC tried to put the same lots up for sale last year, but was stopped because officials didn’t notify the county that the properties were available. He said even Edwin Buss, the DOC commissioner at the time, didn’t know of the sale.

While no inmate has escaped the confines of either Pendleton facility in the last 10 years, Reske is wary of an inmate on the loose making his way to Maple Ridge Elementary School.

“If they escape they’re not going into Pendleton or toward the detention center, they’re going to head to the tracks toward the elementary school,” Reske said.

Don Henderson, president of the Pendleton Town Council, said he understands Reske’s concerns, but added there is some “merit” to adding land into the county’s tax roll.

Henderson said he has had talks with the DOC and the town of Ingalls to develop a stone quarry, which was being used by prison staff, into a public park.

Doug Dowden, an Ingalls Town Council member, said he too would like to see the property turned into a park, as long as the town of Ingalls can have access to the quarry as a backup water system.

Contact Sam Brattain: 640-4883, sam.brattain@heraldbulletin.com

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