By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A controversial plan by the Nutter administration to purchase land for a potential new prison hit another bump today in City Council.
Sixth District councilman Bobby Henon, whose district includes the land that the city intends to buy, originally planned to call the measure up for a vote, but then changed his mind.
“I decided to hold it,” he said today. “One of the (other council) members had a few questions. And out of respect and courtesy to my colleague, I decided to hold it one week.”
The measure allows for a $500,000 down payment on a parcel of land in Northeast Philadelphia adjacent to the city’s existing prisons.
The mayor’s proposed budget sets aside more than $7 million for the final purchase of the 58-acre parcel, and the mayor’s prisons commissioner says the goal is to construct a facility that would eventually replace the outdated and decrepit House of Corrections.
The plan, though, has elicited controversy. Some say there are better uses for the land, which is near the Delaware waterfront. Others believe the money is better spent on other matters, such as school funding.
Henon says the land purchase is simply a first step in a long process.
“There’s a lot of due diligence ahead of us. It’s only the beginning of the discussion, not the end of the discussion,” he told KYW Newsradio today.
Henon says he will call the measure up for a final vote next Thursday, which is City Council’s last scheduled meeting before its summer recess.
The House of Corrections dates from the late 19th Century, and officials say it does not support modern correctional practices.
A new prison would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and it would fall to the next mayor to spearhead that effort. The last new prison built by the city — the Riverside Correctional Facility, for female inmates — opened in 2004.