Greene County to focus on jail solution, water treatment plant in 2021

Richard Wilson/Staff

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Richard Wilson/Staff

Greene County plans to spend 2021 focusing on finding a solution for the aging jail in downtown Xenia, upgrading the county water system and improving county parks.

The county hired consulting firm HDR to do a jail needs assessment that wrapped up in 2019.

Based on what the jail needs assessment found, the county asked Greene County voters for a sales tax increase to help fund a new, bigger jail. Greene County residents rejected the tax hike in 2020.

A new facility would have replaced the 50-year-old jail in downtown Xenia. It would have combined the jail and the sheriff’s office. The facility has had roof leaks, been inhabited by bats and has areas that are endanger of collapsing, Sheriff Gene Fischer said.

“We’ve had bats, we’ve had bugs, we’ve had mice,” Fischer said.

The proposed 500-bed facility would have cost an estimated $70 million to build. Fischer said a similar facility is currently being built in Warren County. And a smaller version of the facility was built in Fairfield County.

“This kind of facility is what I think we need in Greene County and how we get there is all up to the commissioners,” Fischer said. “It’s 2021 now and the need is still there. The funding mechanism is up to the commissioners. They have to decide how to fund it. I took it to the taxpayers last time, so its up to them. they’re the ones who decide what goes on the ballot and what gets funded.”

Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said he hoped to get Fischer in front of commissioners to discuss what to do about the jail in February.

“I will do what I can with what I have and do my best for the citizens of Greene County. And the commissioners are going to have to decide how we do our best,” Fischer said.

Greene County has an average daily population of 285 inmates for both the downtown jail and the adult detention center, and that is projected to increase to 366 inmates by 2035. The county needs to have a capacity of at least 420 beds to accommodate the increase.

According to the jail needs assessment, the Greene County Jail has a capacity of 146 beds and a functional capacity of 124 beds. In 2017, the average daily population for the jail was 138 inmates. Since 2013, the jail has been chronically overcrowded, the needs assessment found.

The Greene County Jail has been under a federal consent decree since 1989 due to overcrowding, the sheriff said.

“What we have now is not efficient, we’re looking to build something that is going to last a long time,” Fischer said.

Fischer said the coronavirus pandemic is a perfect example of why there needs to be a new jail built. They had to release some inmates so that they could properly distance or quarantine them.

Those who opposed the sales tax were not opposed to a new jail, but the size and cost of the jail.

ExploreGreene County rejects sales tax hike for new jail, sheriff’s office

Improving water system

Also in 2021, the county will start replacing its water meter system.

Jason Tincu, the director of the Greene County Sanitary Engineering department, said the county will start replacing about 27,000 meters by June of this year. It will take about a year for all meters to be replaced.

The project will cost $6 million, Tincu said.

Customers will have access to a new interface, which hasn’t been selected yet, that will be able to tell them about their water usage, Tincu said.

The county also plans to undertake a $35 million water treatment plant expansion project. In 2021, the project design for this will be finalized. Construction of the plant could start at the end of 2021 or early 2022, with the plant being operational by the middle of 2023, Tincu said.

The project will expand the water treatment plant’s capacity from nine million gallons of water per day to 12 million per day. The project will also encompass adding water softening technology to the process.

Full-scale upgrades to existing infrastructure will be made. A new membrane building will also be built at the plant. Greene County is targeting the same hardness as Dayton and Montgomery County, Tincu said.

There are four design-build teams competing for the water softening job.

ExploreGreene County to improve water treatment with expansion

Tincu hopes once the project is completed, Greene County homes will be able to phase out in-home softeners or at least turn them down significantly, saving homeowners time and money.

Tincu said the sanitary engineering department also plans to develop a webpage that will have frequently asked questions, information about the new meter system and the schedule for projects this year and beyond.

“When you’re spending the kind of taxpayer dollars we are, we get so many questions and we owe it to them. It is their money,” Tincu said.

Greene County will continue work in 2021 on a new wellfield on Hilltop Road, Tincu said. The new wellfield will be able to produce between 3 million and 5 million gallons of water a day, which will enable Greene County to get off its reliance on the Montgomery County and Dayton water system.

County park improvements

Lastly, the county plans to spend about $400,000 on improving the Greene County parks system in 2021.

Huddleson said Greene County plans to put entrance signs at all the parks and is planning upgrades for Hobson and Karhol parks, like restroom improvements and a potential dog park at Hobson Freedom Park.

“That’s where people go for recreation and it enhances quality of life if people can enjoy the parks more,” Huddleson said.

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