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Commissioners propose way to pay for jail


XENIA — Greene County Commissioners discussed their plan to finance a new jail during last week’s work session, and it appears to have meet everyone’s approval.

The morning meeting held on Tuesday discussed the need to get the ball rolling during the first quarter of 2022 by putting out bids for an architect and design team.

Because of rising interest rates, the county needs to act now to avoid paying a possible $300,000 in interest per year, on a $50 million investment.

“Under the current circumstances, building a new jail is not an option,” said Dick Gould, a Greene County Commissioner and certified public accountant. “We had to figure out what exactly is it going to cost and what are we going to build. We knew what we wanted. We’ll build what we can afford and build within our budget.”

Voters rejected Issue 1 in November, which was seeking a .25 percent sales tax increase, and not a property tax. A similar levy was presented to voters in April of 2020. It sought to increase the number of beds from 382 to 500 and also failed.

If Issue 1 had passed, the county would have been able to pay off the estimated $50 million build projection in 16 years. Under the county’s new plan, it could take 30 years to pay off the debt at a rate of $2.5 million annually.

“So basically, we go to the bond market and we issue the bonds to the bond holders, who eventually get paid the interest back and then their principal back,” explained Gould in describing the $40 million to be borrowed and the $10 million cash on hand that will go toward building the jail. “We all thought it was the only way – there’s no other way to do it. We issue bonds all the time. Sewer and water is paid for by bonds. People loan us money to make money.”

Some Xenia residents remember when the jail was built in 1969 and that it seemed to be a “state of the art” structure that would last forever. The Adult Detention Center, built in 2000, appears in need of a face-lift or a whole new building because of a 32-year federal consent decree which prohibits overcrowding.

“We have a financial advisor and a debt committee that is made up of about five people that analyze this stuff. Our county administrator is the one who analyzed the budget,” said Gould. “$50 million is all we can comfortably afford. However, that only includes the jail, not the administration building. We might have to cut some items out and end up with a smaller jail and make do with what we can afford. Since 1989, there’s been no room for extra inmates. Because of the federal consent decree, they’ve had to limit the amount of prisoners in jail.

“If interest rates go up one percent (on $40 million), it could cost us $350,000 in interest (every year), based on a $2.5 million annual payment,” said Gould.

He added the county applied for a state capital improvement grant for county jails last June but was not selected.

Two multi-county jails are receiving funding to expand their facilities: Scioto County Jail for $1.5 million, and Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail for $1.9 million. In addition, a total of $50 million was allocated to support local jail renovations in Senate Bill 310, which was passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Governor Mike DeWine in December 2020.

Several other counties received grants to assist in building new jails due to the age and condition of their current county jail facilities. Coshocton County received $10.1 million, Gallia County $5.5 million, Harrison County $9.1 million, and Lawrence County – $16.8 million.

Jails selected for funding were those with the greatest need for construction and renovation work to improve conditions and operations, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, Bureau of Adult Detention.

By Karen Rase

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Reach Karen Rase at 937-502-4534