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Portage jail panel favors expansion; recommendation likely soon

by MIKE SEVER RECORD-COURIER REPORTER Published: August 3, 2016 1:00 AM

Ravenna -- The sales and use tax review panel set up by Portage County commissioners is edging closer to recommending a jail expansion plan.

Last week, the subcommittee reviewed several schemes devised by county officials and their architect. They said they hope to make a recommendation by their August meeting.

Panel members also studied the costs of operating any of the plans, including the costs of additional corrections officers.

Commissioner Maureen T. Frederick said it was essential to know how much the continuing operation costs would be.

"My concern is that future budget needs could exceed the money available" and impact other county department budgets after the five-year sales and use tax expires, she said.

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County Coroner Dr. Dean DePerro said he was concerned "we could suck up all the other money we have supposedly set aside for treatment if we're not careful."

Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci noted the numbers presented are for a fully occupied, fully staffed expanded jail.

"This is not going to be full on day one," he said, noting the jail's average population didn't hit 200 inmates until last year, "and we've never topped 248 inmates, ever."

He said the jail operating costs would gradually increase as the population increases.

Sheriff David Doak and Major Dale Kelly indicated they preferred "Scheme 3 revised," which would increase the current 218-bed jail to a total of 357 beds at a construction cost of $12.4 million.

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The scheme would add a 132-bed pod for female inmates, renovate the medical area to add four isolation cells and two maximum security isolation cells, and install video visitation for inmates and their families.

Scheme 3 was revised with input by Doak, his administrators and jail staff on how to best maximize technology and design to the most efficient operation of the jail.

The panel crossed out Scheme 1, which would have remodeled existing inmate housing and convert an outdoor recreation area into additional female inmate housing. That plan would bring the jail to 298 beds and cost $7.15 million.

Scheme 2 would bring the jail to 335 beds and cost $11.68 million, while Scheme 3 would bring the jail to 367 beds at a cost of $13.43 million.

The average number of inmates has been 200 a day annually, with a daily peak of 247 last year and 248 so far this year. The number of female inmates typically exceeds the 37 beds certified, sometimes up to double that number, Doak said.

None of the totals include the cost of staffing, which would add 10 to 17 new corrections officers at full capacity. The jail currently has job slots for 59 corrections officers and supervisors but has two fewer working than allotted.

With fringe benefits, an entry level corrections officer costs the county $68,840 annually according to the sheriff's office.

Asked about the ratio of inmates to corrections officers, Doak said he knew of no state standards, and that the ratio varied from jail to jail and by budget.

"We tend to fall on the low end" of the range, Kelly said.

The committee discussed how large a jail addition is needed, and when it would have to be fully staffed.

DePerro said, "The question is how big of a jail do we need to handle the anticipated population ... and that hopefully will last another 20 years or so."

Email: msever@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4154


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