Ohio senate approves $14M budget plan for 250-bed inmate treatment site

The facility will be used to provide education and substance-abuse treatment for nonviolent felony offenders

By Jim Provance and Mark Reiter
The Blade

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a $2.6 billion, two-year capital budget of bricks-and-mortar projects across the state that holds $14 million for a new 250-bed Lucas County inmate-treatment facility.

The new structure would replace the 140-bed, five-story facility housed in the former YMCA building at 1100 Jefferson Ave. in downtown Toledo. It would be built on the same, yet-to-be-determined site of a new county jail.

“This facility was on our radar screen,” said Stu Hudson, managing director of health care and fiscal operations for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

“Over a two-year period, we went through the master plan of all the facilities we fund and operate,” he said. “One of those facilities was the [facility] up in Lucas County, which is in a 1930s vintage building,” he said. “Estimates were coming in that it was going to cost substantially more [to renovate] than to construct a new [facility].”

The funding is part of $20.3 million included in the capital budget for DRC’s community correctional facilities. The $14 million would cover the new facility’s entire construction cost.

The locally operated facility is used to provide education and substance-abuse treatment for nonviolent felony offenders. Such facilities are part of the emphasis in Gov. John Kasich’s administration on providing more services in the community as a cheaper alternative to imprisonment.

Cynthia Mausser, DRC’s managing director of courts and community, said the county’s plans to build a new jail meant they could coordinate their plans.

“We used that opportunity to partner with them on the building at the same site as the jail,” she said. “They could share laundry services, food services, parking, medical.”

She said it is too soon to know whether the building would be an entirely separate structure from the county jail.

Pete Gerken, a Lucas County commissioner, said the new facility is another part of county efforts toward criminal-justice reform, along with a $1.75 million MacArthur Foundation grant it got last week to reduce the jail population by 16 percent over the next three years.

“This fits right in with our criminal-justice reform plan,” he said. “This keeps people in the right place, at the right time, and gives them the right treatment. It is local treatment for local people.”

The current facility, formally known as the Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility, opened in 1994 in the old downtown YMCA building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It is one of 19 such inmate treatment facilities in the state.

County officials said state prison officials decided to go with a new building instead of renovations because of costs, and the new facility will have more beds too.

A new county jail to replace the nearly 40-year-old jail on Spielbusch Avenue in downtown Toledo has been proposed for nearly two years. A 2014 study put its cost between $140 million and $160 million, with the price contingent on location, capacity, layout, and design.

Contracts have been signed for architectural and design work, engineering, and construction management for the project.

Mr. Gerken said the county plans to build the treatment facility with the same contractors chosen for the new jail.

“We think it is completely appropriate to use the team that we have selected on the jail project,” he said, adding that construction will likely start early next year and finish sometime in 2018.

County officials said they are looking at four or five locations. Mr. Gerken said state officials will join the county in site selection to get property that offers flexibility for the treatment center and the jail.

“That would be a smart way to proceed. Because we have this partnership with the state we need to make sure the site has flexibility,” he said.

The move came as a welcome surprise to local state senators who voted to approve the capital budget.

“There was a need, and it looks like a nice chunk of money for Lucas County for work on an important issue,” state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) said.

Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) pointed to the additional 110 beds.

“There’s been quite a bit of conversation about reducing the number of incarcerations,” she said. “These treatment facilities are for nonviolent felony offenders, and it’s short term [incarceration]. Increasing the number of beds available will go a long way.”

The funding is in addition to nearly $27 million in Lucas County projects that would be at least partially funded under the borrowing-fueled capital budget. 

Senate Bill 310 passed by a 32-1 vote and now goes to the Ohio House.

It authorizes financing for construction and technology upgrades over the next two years at government buildings, universities, parks, economic development-related projects, museums, arts facilities, and other projects.

The budget includes millions for maintenance, renovation, and technology upgrades at the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Owens Community College, and Northwest State Community College.

Among the dozens of other local projects are $1 million for the new ProMedica headquarters parking garage at Promenade Park, $1.5 million in improvements at the Toledo Museum of Art as part of its Polishing the Gem project, and a total of $12 million in various improvements to the Department of Veterans Services home in Sandusky.

County officials said there are no plans to redevelop the building after the new treatment center is completed. 

An addition to the building on Madison Street houses the county’s electronic monitoring and work-release programs.

The seven-story building opened in 1935 as the Central YMCA and had basketball and squash courts, a swimming pool, and 152 rooms that could be rented by the week. 

It closed in the early 1980s in a cost-saving move by the YMCA of Greater Toledo and sat empty for nearly 20 years before the county bought it.

The building’s ornate exterior consists of brickwork in a colored pattern and is designed in the Romanesque style of Northern Italy.

Copyright 2016 The Blade

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