Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Ditching community jail meeting looks bad for Lucas County commissioners

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Vangie Steuer-Snodgrass, center left, and her neighbors express their frustration over the location of a proposed new county jail to Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerkin during an open information session on Feb. 7.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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The Lucas County commissioners said they learned from the mistakes that doomed at least one previous attempt to find a site for a new county jail.

“We learned our lessons from Angola,” Commissioner Pete Gerken said. “We’re not going to do that again.”

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The “that” Mr. Gerken was referring to was a half-hearted attempt at persuading nearby residential property owners that the Angola Road site in South Toledo was the right place to build a new jail. In the end, opposition from the property owners led the commissioners to scrap that plan and start over.

This time would be different, the commissioners assured the public when they announced they had found a new 25-acre site along North Detroit Avenue. They invited residents from about 700 households in nearby residential areas to a public-information session, at which they steered concerned citizens past a series of conceptual drawings.

To no one’s surprise, at least a few residents were not satisfied with the answers they got at that meeting. Now, a neighborhood group has organized a second informational session for Thursday evening and asked county officials to attend.

But no county officials have accepted the offer.

Instead, the commissioners said they must all attend Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s first State of the City address that evening.

Really? All three of them? And there are no other county officials who can go? None of the dozen or more representatives who carefully rehearsed their speeches for the first informational meeting are available to go meet with residents who are asking for more answers?

This is not what learning from your mistakes looks like.

The Alexis/Detroit No Jail Community Group would like county officials to discuss the jail plan and the potential issues it poses for their neighborhood again.

Even if county officials have to repeat answers they have offered before, even if some of the neighbors can never be convinced to support the plan, even if the room is likely to be hostile, the commissioners should show up.

To disregard this group’s concerns and decline their invitation signals that Lucas County commissioners are just ramming the jail project down the throats of people who have legitimate concerns about a jail in their neighborhood. If the commissioners do not mean to do this, they should show it. They should show up.

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