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Lucas County commissioners unveil proposed jail site

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    19 acres are for sale along Detroit Avenue to Alexis Road in Toledo, Ohio on February 1, 2018. Lucas County commissioners have unveiled a proposal to place a new jail at the site.

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    19 acres are for sale along Detroit Avenue to Alexis Road in Toledo, Ohio on February 1, 2018. Lucas County commissioners have unveiled a proposal to place a new jail at the site.

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    The Lucas County Commissioners are expected to propose the site, which extends from 5650 N. Detroit, next to Cherry Picked Auto Parts, north to Alexis Road and east to railroad tracks just short of Stickney Avenue, for a new jail.

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Lucas County commissioners on Thursday unveiled their proposal to replace the aging downtown jail with a new facility in North Toledo constructed on a 25-acre site.

Plans involve building along the 5700 block of North Detroit Avenue, south of East Alexis Road. With a capacity of 650 people, a new jail would house both sentenced inmates and those with pending court cases.

The project will cost an estimated $180 million, with $155 million toward the jail and $25 million for a behavioral health solutions center. All of the necessary properties are under purchase contracts.

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Next for voters is a 1.31-mill property tax increase on the November ballot. The levy would last 37 years and cost about $4 per month for the owner of a home appraised at $100,000.

If approved, commissioners hope to break ground by early next year and open the jail about four years from now.

Officials cited among this location's features its industrial area, access to major roads for law enforcement, and buildable site. The jail would stand one or 1½ stories in height and allow for direct inmate supervision.

This is about a larger moment in criminal justice reform, mental health recovery, and operations for the sheriff, Commissioner Pete Gerken said.

“We're doing a complete transformation. This is more than just a building today. This is a site where a building's going to go, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. The real body of work under this is systems change, partnerships, looking forward, not looking back,” Mr. Gerken said.

The main site for this jail, 5706 N. Detroit Ave., is a field owned by 4M Investors LLC. This group purchased it for $325,000 in May, 2000, according to county auditor records.

Documents filed with the secretary of state do not identify the organization's owners. County officials would not disclose their names Thursday.

Administrator Megan Vahey Casiere told The Blade on Thursday morning she could provide the names of "a couple" of the investors from 4M. She later said she never knew who the investors were.

"I asked if we had that list and we don't," she said.

State records list Toledo attorney Bruce Schoenberger as the authorized agent upon the company filing articles of organization in March, 2000. Mr. Schoenberger said he was not immediately sure who comprised its leadership, but could not otherwise release it without their approval.

This new jail would also mean the county pulls its inmates from the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker, Ohio. Doing so requires three years of notice, which county officials have not yet done, Mr. Gerken said.

The average stay from local courts at CCNO is 45 days or fewer. It is important to instead bring those inmates back for local treatment, he said.

The county currently houses 390 inmates with pending court cases at the downtown jail and 258 inmates at CCNO.

The current jail was built in 1977. Officials describe it as an aging center in need of replacement. They expect to demolish it as part of this plan.

Commissioner Carol Contrada said many have not seen what a modern jail looks like. They imagine a facility with features that stick out, such as guard towers, she said.

“This is not a jail that you see in the movies,” Mrs. Contrada said.

Much of the jail population requires attention for mental illness or addiction. The proposed alternative center would provide important programming and allow an alternative to booking them at jail, Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said.

The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board will help handle operations. It would occupy one to two acres on the jail site or elsewhere, she said.

“There are modern ways to handle people like this, and that is a solution center,” she said.

Last July, the commissioners approved placing on the ballot a 1.9-mill property tax to fund construction of the proposed $150 million jail. It also would have raised $7.7 million annually toward jail operations.

The proposal drew stiff opposition from residents of South Toledo neighborhoods, who opposed plans to build the facility on Angola Road near Airport Highway.

Commissioners eventually removed that proposal from the ballot, citing at the time a failure by the city of Toledo to negotiate selling its police impound lot to the county as the jail site.

Commissioners are not seeking an operations levy this time. Mr. Gerken said residents are less sure about paying for operations, and county officials believe they will reap operational savings to apply toward costs.

Mr. Gerken said they have learned from rushing with the Angola site and welcome an opportunity to sell the new plan to voters. 

“I don't think we could be any more prepared than we are today,” he said.

The area immediately encroaching the jail site is largely industrial. A mobile home park, Raintree Village, is east of the site across from Stickney Avenue.

Residents expressed mixed opinions about having a jail built nearby.

Daniel Clark, 45, said he used to live near the Toledo Correctional Institute and often heard people “gripe” about that facility. But he never experienced any problems.

"It won't bother me," he said of building the new jail near his current home. "I'm sure it will be secure.”

"I used to live in the North End and everybody used to gripe about the [Toledo Correctional Institute] they were going to build there.”

Lance Kincaid, 54, disagreed.

"I am going to vote against it, so they find a better place for it — next to the state prison," Mr. Kincaid said. "We've got little kids around here."

Cherry Picked Auto Parts, a salvage yard, sits to the south of the proposed site.

Owner Joel Beren said he is not concerned for safety with the addition. He is pleased there will be an increase in law enforcement traveling Detroit Avenue, he said.

“I'm sure the night shift of non-paying customers will come to halt,” Mr. Beren said.

An open house for those to learn more about the jail and ask questions is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 7. It will take place at the Lucas County Emergency Medical Service building, 2127 Jefferson Ave.

Blade staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.

Contact Ryan Dunn at rdunn@theblade.com, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @RDunnBlade.

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