Jul. 23—The Greene County Commissioners held a public hearing Thursday night to listen to the public's opinions on their proposal to put a 0.25% sales tax increase on the ballot to fund a new jail in Greene County.
Greene County residents voted down a levy in April 2020 that would have imposed a 12-year, 0.25% sales tax to pay for a new, 500-bed jail. County leaders contend a new jail is still needed and revised the plans to have fewer beds.
The proposed 384-bed jail is currently estimated to cost $50 million, Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said.
The sales tax increase would collect an estimated $6 million per year and would continue to be collected until the jail is paid off. Huddleson said there is not a definite date when the tax would end, but commissioners will petition the tax commissioner to reduce collections on the increase to zero as soon as the jail bond issue is retired.
Greene County Commissioner Dick Gould noted during Thursday's meeting that the jail, which is in downtown Xenia, is 52 years old. In 1989, it came under a federal consent decree due to not having enough space, and an adult detention facility meant to be temporary was added.
"The age and layout of the current jail presents major repair and upkeep costs, and daily obstacles to the well being and safety of both inmates and corrections officers," Gould said.
Sheriff Gene Fischer said a new correctional facility and sheriff's office is needed. Fischer said most of the cost of the building would be in building a new correctional facility.
Maj. Kirk Keller, Greene County jail administrator, said one entrance used for prisoners can no longer be used because it is crumbling. Bricks and other parts of the building are crumbling.
Lindie Keaton, a resident who spoke at the meeting, said while she agreed that Greene County needed a new building and people should have a safe place to work, she noted many of the people in jail have mental health or substance use disorders.
"Likely bail reform is coming, so we don't want to not have those support services," she said.
Dan Kirkpatrick, a former Fairborn mayor and a retired Air Force mental health nurse, said he had been in the jail prior to COVID-19 and was not impressed by what he saw. He said he would not want to work in that building.
He said he was a strong proponent of building a new building and addressing mental health and substance abuse in the rebuild.
Greene County Commissioner Tom Koogler said mental health and substance abuse disorders couldn't be addressed in the current jail and would need to be addressed in a redesign.
"If we don't have a good corrections system to take and help these people, we're not going to have a good community," he said.
A second public hearing on the jail expansion is set for 1:30 p.m. July 29 at the Greene County Administrative building.