XENIA — Greene County Commissioners passed a resolution Thursday that will place a .25 percent sales tax increase on the November ballot.
If the increase passes, Greene County’s sales tax would go from 6.75 percent to 7 percent. It would go into effect three months later, be in place for 16 years and would help fund a new county jail facility in Xenia. Purchases up to $398 would change less than $1.
Items like grocery food, utilities, and fuel including gasoline, prescription medicine, and medical services and devices would all still be sales-tax free.
“The bottom line is the downtown jail is 52-years-old and has outlived its usefulness,” Greene County Commissioner Dick Gould said.
As previously announced, the commissioners held a public hearing during the meeting.
Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer was the first person from his department to speak and brought up the subject of cost savings.
“A new building with new technology can provide costs savings down the road,” Fischer said.
Major Kirk Keller said the people he talks to express the need for a new jail to be built. They feel a new building is a necessity.
“Although there is opposition to the building of a facility, people’s opposition is more to the number of beds and not the building itself,” Keller said.
The number of beds for the project has been reduced from 500 to 384 beds.
One of Keller’s concerns is for the workers who have to deal with the current conditions of both the jail and sheriff’s department office.
“Those who provide for the care and custody of the people given to the sheriff’s department are the unsung heroes,” Keller said. “Those workers need adequate facilities to do their jobs.”
An estimate of up to 40 percent of sales tax comes from visitors that live outside Greene County, according to county records.
“I don’t feel like Greene County residents should pay this entire bill,” Major Shawn Prall said. “The sales tax is the way to do that.”
Greene County resident Kathryn LeVesconte said she is in favor of the project.
“We support the decommission of the downtown jail,” LeVesconte said. “The sheriff should not have to be in a 1929 car dealership facility.”
Xenia resident Janis James said the need is there, but there are additional issues.
“I am asking you to study what you are getting,” she said. “There is a need for a new jail. However, a shiny new facility will not solve all of the problems. Explain to us what will be done to help people. Before you put the levy on a ballot, this is your chance to leave a legacy.”
Bellbrook resident Wendy Dyer expressed concerns about miscommunication.
“I have had discussions with people on both sides of the issue. There has been a lot of miscommunication,” Dyer said. “Before the issue is placed on a ballot, we need to let the public know what we are going to do.”
Other residents also spoke about making sure the mental-health aspect is addressed so inmates aren’t repeat offenders.