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Published: Wednesday, 4/10/2013

Lucas County to seek study for a new jail

Commissioners vote to request proposals to find a consultant

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Friddell shows water damage at the  Lucas County jail to Carol Contrada, president of the county commissioners. Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Friddell shows water damage at the Lucas County jail to Carol Contrada, president of the county commissioners.
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Lucas County commissioners took the first steps Tuesday to hire a consultant to develop a study on replacing the 36-year-old county jail in downtown Toledo with a new facility.

Carol Contrada, president of the board of commissioners, said the jail at 1622 Spielbusch Ave. is expensive to operate, needs costly repairs and maintenance, and cannot accommodate correction and rehabilitation programs.

“The jail itself is in very poor condition,” Mrs. Contrada said at a news conference before the commissioners’ meeting. “It is beyond its useful life. It is obsolete. It is deteriorating.”

The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to release a request for proposals to find a consultant to help the county determine the feasibility of a new jail.

The consulting firm would look at all aspects of a new facility, including costs, location, number of beds, financing, and partner agencies that could colloraborate on programs, Mrs. Contrada said.

Concern about the jail and action on a proposal for a study on a replacement have been building for months.

A 26-member executive committee of judges, administrators, elected officials, and citizens representing Toledo, Maumee, Sylvania, Waterville, Lucas County, and a local mental health agency were appointed in January to examine the feasibility of a new facility versus repairing and renovating the exisiting corrections center.

Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said suburban communities would be stakeholders in a new jail and their input carries equal weight in the analysis to arrive at a decision.

“Everybody has a potential stake in the decisions that get made,” she said. “It is not just a local project. It is a regional project and involves the suburbs as well as the city of Toledo. It is critical that we have a diverse representation.”

A “working committee” was put together by the executive committee to assist in the project by providing data and information on the local criminal justice system. The 16-member group includes representatives of the sheriff and commissioners’ offices, Toledo police, Toledo Municipal Court, Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, the sheriffs’ employee unions, and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

In February, the commissioners approved a resolution to apply for a grant through the Ohio Department of Development’s Local Government Innovation Fund to pay for a study.

“Months and months and months ago, we began talking to the county commissioners on how we can reduce the costs of running the jail. ... The commissioners agreed to work with us,”said Sheriff John Tharp, who joined the commissioners at the news conference.

Under the time line announced during the news conference, the notice seeking requests for proposals will be posted Monday, with commissioners planning to hire the consultant in early June.

The commissioners would like the consultant’s report and recommendations three months later, with possible action by the board taking place in October.

Mrs. Contrada said the county is leaning toward a new location for the jail instead of renovations or expansion of the current facility. She said the nine-level architectural design of the jail doesn’t lend itself to modern standards for lockup facilities.

The jail, which opened in 1977 as a pretrial facility, needs roof work, a new elevator, and an updated security system.

“We cannot simply allow the jail to continue to deteriorate any longer,” Mrs. Contrada said.

Commissioner Pete Gerken said the request-for-proposals process follows the model the county used in the studies to build Fifth Third Field and Huntington Center.

“This is not as fun, but it will be just as much work,” Mr. Gerken said. “We know we can do this. But this one is going to be a challenge.”

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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