XENIA — It will be up to Greene County voters in the March 17, 2020 primary election whether to accept a .25 percent sales and use tax increase to help fund the construction of a new county jail.
Greene County commissioners un-tabled an item from last week, ultimately passing a resolution Dec. 3 to place the levy before voters “to support Criminal and Administrative Justice Services for the purpose of constructing, acquiring, equipping or repairing a detention facility.” The additional .25 percent to the tax would be for a period of 12 years.
The unanimous vote comes after the commissioners held two required public hearings on the matter. Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer also submitted to the board last week a pro forma concerning the operating expenses.
“The fact that we need a new jail has been known for several years,” Fischer said. “What (the people) are going to vote on is how we’re going to pay for the new facility … It’s not the property owners that are paying this tax, it’s everybody that’s coming into Greene County and spending money, so that’s a good thing.”
After officials from HDR — the architectural, engineering, and consulting firm tasked with studying the current correctional facilities in the county — issued their final report, Fischer proposed in August a plan that would build a new 500-bed replacement jail and convert the adult detention center into a rehabilitation facility to be used by a third party.
Commissioners expressed differing opinions on the facility size. Board President Tom Koogler said he believes the sheriff has proposed a larger-than-necessary jail.
“I strongly believe that we need a jail. It’s imperative that we get one built,” Koogler said. “I believe that because of what could be improved technology, different legislation, and things that may take place over the next 10 to 15 years, we would be better served to have a jail that we could add onto versus building it all at one time.”
Commissioners Dick Gould and Bob Glaser disagreed. Glaser said the state is already “kicking the incarceration of prisoners back down to the local level.”
“By building a jail a certain size, you end up with a fixed cost. To add onto that — that addition on a per-square-foot basis is very expensive. For that reason I think we can safely build what the sheriff has asked for … ” Glaser said. “If the growth isn’t there, we have the opportunity to transfer prisoners in from other areas because there’s a shortage of jail space, and we can charge other counties for that space … I think the sheriff has very wisely chosen to build a jail that will last us hopefully for 20 (plus) years.”
Fischer said the expected population increase coupled with the continued build up of businesses on the Interstate 675 corridor may bring more crime to the area.
“So you’ve got to have options for the judges,” he said. “The judges will decide if people need to go to jail or don’t need to go to jail, but we’ve got to be prepared for that.”
The board’s clerk is to notify the Board of Elections (BOE) and the state tax commissioner of the proposed levy.
BOE Director Llyn McCoy said the filing deadline is 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18. Ballot language has to be approved by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, then the BOE has to certify the levy to the ballot.
Contact this reporter at 937-502-4498. Follow Anna Bolton, Reporter @annadbolton on Facebook.