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Plans for new Portage County Jail pod may be pushed back or scuttled

By MATTHEW MERCHANT | RECORD-COURIER REPORTER Published: February 22, 2017 1:00 AM

RAVENNA -- Portage County commissioners are considering reversing course on a proposed multi-million dollar expansion of the Portage County Jail.

On Feb. 14, commissioners chose not to move forward with reviewing the project's construction manager at-risk job. That was the next step toward confirming details of the roughly $13 million proposed project, which already has an architect chosen.

A CMR is commitment from the construction company on when it will finish a proposed project.

The jail expansion --- building a new pod for female inmates --- was set to begin this spring, but could be pushed back, if not delayed entirely, depending on the decision of both commissioners and the sales and use tax subcommittee, which met Feb. 15 to review proposals for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.

Commissioner Maureen Frederick said the jail population has been falling over the past several months, leading the board to question the need for a new pod. Additionally, she said if the jail's population of drug-related offenders is being pushed toward alternative rehabilitation programs instead of jail time then a new pod wouldn't be necessary.

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Commissioners have called for a meeting between all judges in the county, the sheriff and the budget director for further discussion on the project.

"Collectively, we need to address the fact that a jail is no place for an addict. It puts one heck of a burden on, not only the sheriff, but the officers that have no resources or training [for substance abuse]," said Frederick. "I hate to say it, but that's not their job or what they are supposed to do. They have to be relieved of that."

Commissioner Vicki Kline said other aspects of the current jail could be improved instead, such as new doors and locking systems, radios and closing off an unused outdoor recreation yard for more bed space.

"We have the funds to build it, but we don't have the money to staff it. My fear is that it will sit empty," Frederick said.

In October 2015, commissioners imposed a five-year, 0.25 percent sales and use tax on the county after learning the jail's female population was almost double the jail's capacity. The county pulled in roughly $3 million last year, less than the expected $5 million.

A portion of the sales and use funds have already gone to adult probation, as well as the sheriff's corrections and road patrol.

Email: mmerchant@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4156


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