Monday, Nov 12, 2018
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Build the new jail, but be transparent


The Lucas County commissioners have announced a location for a new jail, to replace the current, deplorably outdated Lucas County Jail.

The North Detroit Avenue site is about six miles from the current jail on Spielbusch Avenue.

VIDEO: Keith Burris and Wynne Everett discuss the proposal for a new Lucas County Jail

Sheriff John Tharp, who long advocated for the jail to remain downtown as it is now, has said he was persuaded that the cost and the time to acquire enough parcels downtown made that impossible.

Now that they have convinced the sheriff, the commissioners must convince the public. Building a $180 million jail on those 25 acres in North Toledo is going to require a promotional tour.

The previous two attempts to pick a jail site were doomed by trying to hurry the process, the commissioners conceded to The Blade’s editorial board. A plan to use the city of Toledo’s tow lot fell apart when the city would not strike a bargain to the commissioners’ liking. And the attempt to buy 30 acres in South Toledo, along Angola Road, created so much backlash from nearby residential property owners that the county was forced to drop it.

“We learned our lessons from Angola,” Commissioner Pete Gerken said.

County officials have now reached out to the owners of about 700 homes in three subdivisions near the Detroit Avenue site. They plan a public information session for those residents next week and say they are eager to hear and address their concerns.

This is a good way to demonstrate that the commissioners have learned from past mistakes. While it is true that any potential jail site is likely to make some new neighbors unhappy, it is important for the county officials to hear those neighbors out and do whatever possible to answer their concerns.

The county’s decision to ask voters for a 1.31-mill property tax levy that will pay for the jail is different than the last attempt at a nwe jail, as well. Last summer, commissioners hurried to get a 1.9-mill property tax on the November, 2017 ballot to fund construction of the proposed $150 million jail, and raise $7.7 million annually to pay for jail operations. By September, facing backlash over two failed attempts to find a site, the commissioners were forced to yank the levy off the ballot.

This time, the commissioners are taking their time, going out of their way to listen, and find partners and allies. And this time, their plan involves a “solution” or “recovery” center, which will deal with the addicted and mentally as patients rather than criminals.

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One hiccup in the county’s plan involves the limited liability corporation that is selling most of the seven parcels of land on which the new jail is to be built. 4M Investors LLC owns properties around the city and has owned much of the proposed jail site — now a bean field — for several years.

4M Investors lists only an attorney on the paperwork the company filed with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, and county officials claim they do not know who the investors behind 4M Investors are.

That is inconceivable.

Do the county commissioners really not know the names of the actual people from whom the county is going to buy nearly 25 acres of land for roughly $1 million? Either they are fools or they think the public is.

The public whose money is being used to buy this land has a right to know who is selling it.

The jail must be built. It must be built soon. The project must be totally transparent.

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