County officials progress on new jail plans; opposition group's measure dismissed


At nearly the same time Lucas County commissioners approved seeking an interim construction management contract with Lathrop Co. regarding a new jail, the county board of elections removed from the November ballot a proposal to restrict that jail’s location to Toledo’s downtown.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to enter into an interim contract with Lathrop for construction management services. The vote allows Lathrop to start the work as officials negotiate a formal contract. The $75,000 cost of the interim contract will be applied to the total management services expense.

An analysis shows construction costs rising for each month work is delayed, Commissioner Pete Gerken said. 

“In dollars, that means for every month that we don’t get started, it could cost the county up to $600,000 a month in additional construction costs,” Mr. Gerken said.

Officials are working to replace the county’s aging downtown Toledo jail with a $180 million jail and behavioral health center. The proposed jail would sit along the 5700 block of North Detroit Avenue, near East Alexis Road.

An accompanying property tax increase, set to appear on the November ballot, asks voters to weigh in on a 1.37-mill tax increase for at up to 37 years. If passed, the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay about $48 per year, beginning next year.

BLADE BRIEFING: County officials progress on new jail plans

Mr. Gerken said after the meeting that officials view the levy proposal as a reasonable amount that aids the community, corrections officers, and residents who need treatment. 

“I’m convinced that people will recognize that. If not, we’re back to the drawing board, but a jail still will be built,” Mr. Gerken said.

Should the vote fail, commissioners will find alternative funding sources. Mr. Gerken said commissioners could also return to voters in May. They believe they have a good plan and site, he said.

Separately Tuesday, the board of elections removed a proposed ballot measure that would have asked voters to amend the city charter by popular vote in order to ensure any new Lucas County jail remains downtown.

Board attorney Kevin Pituch advised board members to keep the petition off the ballot because it goes beyond the scope of what Toledo law can enforce.

Rebecca Maxcy, a supporter of the Keep the Jail Downtown effort, expressed disappointment in the decision.

“I think that our board of elections has overstepped their boundaries," she said. “I’ve been heavily involved since they announced the jail at Alexis and Detroit. ... There are lots of reasons to keep it downtown.”

She said she sees a lawsuit as the next step.

Mary Dutkowski, another supporter of the downtown jail group, said she was shocked.

“I really believed in the system,” she said. “We had the signatures. We had the support. I really did believe we were getting on the ballot today.”

Earlier this month, Keep the Jail Downtown leaders said more than 60 people collected signatures from 10,583 registered voters for submission to the board.

The county’s latest plan to build a new jail and the accompanying behavioral health center comes after commissioners in 2017 approved placing on the ballot that year a 1.9-mill property tax to fund construction of a $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. 

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