Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp speaks to a resident during an information session on a proposed new Lucas County Jail Wednesday, February 7, 2018. Another public forum on the proposed site in North Toledo took place Thursday.
Neighbors of a proposed Lucas County jail site in North Toledo told county commissioners and the sheriff Thursday about their concerns about safety, home property values, and increased load on the area’s traffic and sewers.
“I’ve been there 20 years and all I’ve seen is my neighborhood go downhill,” said Susan White, 56. “The city and the county have tried to put every undesirable business in my neighborhood.
“There’s four strip clubs, at least one adult bookstore, and an S&M [sadomasochism] club. That’s what we are dealing with. And now you want to set us up with a jail. No way! We are not going to stand for it.”
Ms. White was one of several people who took the floor and spoke against the proposed jail location at a public forum hosted at the Government Center by the Lucas County Commissioners and Sheriff John Tharp
The purpose of the forum was to hear questions about the proposed jail site, according to event organizers.
“I don’t want to be here, but I don’t want to lose my neighborhood,” Rebecca Sue, an area resident of 20 years, said, adding that declining home property values and safety were her main concerns and that the jail should be built downtown.
“[Declining home values] will be a slow progression, but that’s how it happens. That’s how it always happens,” she said.
“And what’s going to be the [police] response time if anything happens down here [downtown] or if it happens on the other end of town?” she asked.
Both Ms. Sue and Ms. White drew applause from the audience of 160 people.
Commissioners in early February revealed their proposed $180 million project, which includes $155 million toward the jail and $25 million for a behavioral health solutions center.
Officials say there will be an increased law enforcement presence in the area and point to research showing home values do not decrease when they are outside of a jail's line of sight.
Organizers billed Thursday forum as “the second opportunity for formal public engagement since the Board of County Commissioners announced the site of the new jail in early February.”
Organizers said they considered the proposed jail’s “open house” event Feb. 7 at the Lucas County EMS Training Center, 2127 Jefferson Ave., as the first such opportunity. During that event, the proposed jail plan was unveiled to the audience of about 150 people, with neighbors voicing their concerns primarily about safety and property values.
More recently, more than 125 people attended a public meeting Feb. 22 hosted by the Alexis/Detroit No Jail Community Group at the Friendship Park Community Center, with neighbors again voicing concerns.
Organizers of the Feb. 22 forum said they invited county officials to attend the panel.
In a statement, county spokesman Chad Olson said at the time that commissioners could not attend because they were previously scheduled to be at Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz's State of the City address. Sheriff John Tharp was outside the area for mandatory training.
Voters are expected in November to decide whether to approve an accompanying levy for funding. It's estimated to last 37 years and cost about $4 per month for the owner of a home valued at $100,000. If approved, officials hope to break ground by early next year.
“Nobody wants to have a jail in their backyard,” Sheriff Tharp said. “But we need a new facility. We need to build a jail someday somehow.”
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