Fort Wayne, Allen County should paws to seek cooperation if possible

The Sheriff's Department hopes to open a new canine training facility on Adams Center Road next year. (Courtesy image)
The Fort Wayne Police Department plans to train its dogs in this former horse stable. (Photo by Kevin Leininger of The News-Sentinel)
Sheriff Dave Gladieux has been talking for years about replacing the department's dilapidated canine facility on Lima Road (File photo by Kevin Leininger of The News-Sentinel)
Sgt. Robert Theurer and Bella. (News-Sentinel file photo)

With the Fort Wayne Police Department’s old canine training ground on Wells Street now serving as a staging area for riverfront development and the Allen County Sheriff Department’s 45-year-old facility on Lima Road badly in need of replacement, the agencies’ shared need at first seemed as though it would induce mutually beneficial cooperation.

Instead, it may represent just the latest example of how geographic proximity does not necessarily prevent bureaucratic distance.

Sheriff Dave Gladieux has been talking about replacing his canine facility on the Byron Health Center grounds at 12101 Lima Road since at least 2013, and in 2016 persuaded County Council and the three County Commissioners to pledge $250,000 each toward the $1.2 million project to be developed near his department’s shooting range on Adams Center Road. National Serv-All had previously donated $60,000 to begin planning and Gladieux said this week Steel Dynamics has pledged $25,000, with his budget making up the difference through funds collected through drug seizures or county jail inmates’ purchase of toiletries.

But when Gladiuex made his pitch to council last year, he also said the city of Fort Wayne would extend sewer and water lines to the site worth about $150,000. The FWPD, he said, might be interested in using the site as well.

Now, however, Gladiuex says he’ll have to install a well and septic system because the city won’t install the utilities and is now planning its own training center on land owned by the Parks and Recreation Department at 3606 Harris Road — something Gladieux insisted he knew nothing about until I brought it to his attention.

“(The city) chose another route. I’m OK with it. This isn’t about us vs. them,” he said.

Sgt. Bob Theurer, supervisor of the city’s K9 unit, is equally non-confrontational when talking about the project for which the city has been seeking bids that call for the installation of fencing, partial demolition of an existing structure and improvements to a former horse barn stable that will provide indoor training space. Depending on the cost, Theurer isn’t sure the entire project will happen, although work was well underway this week.

That’s good, because “We were booted out of downtown” (in April or May),” he said.

“I’m always looking for economies of scale. Maybe this could have been one of those opportunities,” Commissioner Nelson Peters said.

That may or may not be true. Each department has its own needs and procedures, and there’s much to be said about controlling one’s own destiny. And both departments seem to be pursuing their plans with a minimal amount of tax dollars, even though the sheriff’s commissary and seizure funds are undeniably public dollars.

But has a good-faith effort to explore the feasibility and desirability of creating a single facility even been attempted? Peters said he hasn’t really been involved. Gladieux pondered, “Are there underlying political things (at work)? My intentions were good, but maybe.”

“I don’t know if we ever talked about working with the sheriff. All I do is what I’m told,” Theurer added.

“I don’t believe there’s an issue here,” said John Perlich, spokesman for Mayor Tom Henry. “Our office and Sheriff Gladieux have had and continue to have a positive working relationship. Some time ago, there were some initial conversations between Mayor Henry, Sheriff Gladieux and former public safety director York. With new city and county K9 facilities still being in the planning stages, Sheriff Gladieux and Police Chief (Steve) Reed plan to meet soon to talk about the possibility of working together on K9-related items. No decisions have been made. We’ll see how the discussion goes.”

Perlich said the Allen County Regional Water and Sewer District had planned to extend service to the area “but that didn’t work out.” The city will probably do so at some point, he added.

I’m not suggesting anyone is in the wrong here, and there’s not a lot of money at stake (as government defines “lot”). But the city’s annexation attempt frayed relations with the county last year and the two sides just last month could not agree to renew a revenue-sharing deal to maintain bridges. Is this just the latest example of a failure to communicate? Could that failure lead to bigger problems later?

With both projects in their early stages, doggone it, shouldn’t somebody try to find out while there’s still time?

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.

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