Lucas County commissioners continue to seek a plan to replace the outdated county jail on Spielbusch Avenue.
The continuing search for a new Lucas County jail site has been a game with many rounds of “Red Light/Green Light.”
The county runs forward. And then everything stops, suddenly. And this is followed by another round of the same.
It has not worked.
Earlier this year, the commissioners hustled a proposal onto the ballot to build and fund the new jail to take advantage of a new form of ballot measure created by the General Assembly. The rushed approach proved fatal to that plan.
South Toledo residents who were caught off guard when the commissioners announced the new jail site would be in their neighborhood balked. Persuading the public to accept the site that commissioners seemingly plucked out of the blue proved to be too much for a quick public relations campaign.
The commissioners then scrambled again to pick an alternate site over the summer, settling on the North Toledo police impound lot, owned by the city of Toledo.
But nobody told the city, and Toledo city officials were not in the mood to rush negotiations over that parcel. It was to the city’s advantage to press Lucas County for concessions on a larger fight about jail funding, which doomed negotiations in the days leading up to the general election.
Without a site on which to build a new jail, the commissioners were forced to pull the levy that would pay for the project from the November ballot.
Since then, the public, and the people incarcerated and working in the current Dickensian facility the county now operates on Spielbusch Avenue, have been waiting for the next move in the find-a-jail-site melodrama.
The Lucas County commissioners should stop trying to rush the site selection. They should try to get it right instead.
So far, hurrying has only caused delays.
The ideal site for a new jail is somewhere near the present jail location — downtown.
The commissioners and officials involved with the successful MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge grant have promising ideas about the design for a new, safer, modern, state-of-the-art jail that will help Lucas County continue to be a leader in criminal justice reform.
That jail should be near courtrooms and county offices downtown to cut down on travel time and expense for all and to maximize safety and use of law enforcement personnel. Some proposed sites would tie up officers for a fourth of a daily shift, or more.
Maintaining a downtown jail site also minimizes disruption in any residential neighborhoods where the county would surely face a second round of neighbor backlash.
Downtown Toledo has many vacant parcels the commissioners should be able to choose among as potential sites.
Yes, cobbling together a jail site from multiple parcels and multiple sellers will be a challenge. And yes, choosing downtown sites that will require demolition and remediation will take more time and money than building on a green or vacant property elsewhere in the county.
But if the last year has taught us all anything, it should be that trying to hastily slide a jail plan into place is not going to work. Taking the time to choose and acquire the right jail site will be worth it.
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