New Warren County jail to cost more than $40 million

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Sheriff Larry Sims wants a new jail to be built in Warren County.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

One commissioner is urging renovation of the existing jail.

Warren County is a step closer to spending more than $40 million on a new jail.

In her first meeting as a county commissioner, Shannon Jones on Tuesday joined Commissioner Dave Young in supporting plans to build a new facility, rather than renovate the existing jail, parts of which were built in 1975.

"We obviously need to build a new jail," said Jones who took a seat on the county commission for the first time Tuesday after serving as a state representative and senator since 2007.

The meeting was held to ensure “everyone was on the same page,” County Administrator Tiffany Zindel said.

While Jones and Young supported building a new jail, Commissioner Tom Grossmann continued to urge Sheriff Larry Sims and the consultant assisting the county to consider alternatives, such as using the existing jail or expanding into space currently housing the county court.

“It doesn’t make sense to me to get rid of what we already have,” Grossmann said.

Sims described moving forward with renovation as a “train wreck.”

Last year, the commissioners directed the consultant, K2M Design, to move ahead with a needs assessment after unveiling the findings of a study estimating the costs of replacing the existing facility at more than $50 million.

“It almost seems in my humble opinion we’ve stepped back a bit,” Sims said after Grossmann asked questions related to renovating the current facility, built in 1975 and last expanded in 1996.

But Jones and Young said they supported the construction of a new jail.

“This is our top priority. We’re building a jail,” Young said.

The county anticipates borrowing $30 million of the cost, incurring $40 million in debt service over 20 years. In 20 years, consultant Scott Maloney projects that the new jail will have reached capacity.

So far, the county - which historically has funded building projects through cash reserves - has set aside $4.1 million for the a new jail.

After the meeting, Sims said he was unsure how much the jail would cost, but estimated $30 million to $40 million.

In March, the sheriff and Maloney are expected to return for another meeting after completing final analysis of staffing needs of the jail for the next 20 years.

The new jail is expected to house 450 inmates, 170 more than the existing facility, which is operating at or near capacity.

Over the past decade, county officials have developed alternative sentencing options and begun double bunking inmates, rather than build a new jail.

In recent years, they have been releasing more prisoners before their sentences lapse and delaying incarceration of others due to limited space in the jail.

While building a new jail is expensive, Maloney advised the commissioners that a new building would maximize efficiency and reduce personnel costs.

“The operations are the most expensive part,” he said, estimating the new jail could be complete in five years.

Deerfield Twp. Trustee Chris Romano urged the commissioners to factor in the county’s growth.

He said the township outside Mason is expecting to practically double in population from 27,000 to 50,000 in coming decades.

“You should expect that the rest of the county is going to continue to grow,” Romano said.

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