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Cuyahoga County Council approves $8 million budget for new jail

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 12:00 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County Council approved an $8,000,000 contract for an architect to build a new jail.

District 11 Councilman Sunny M. Simon opened the resolution with the following statement:

“Time is not our friend. We are in a bad, bad situation with the present jail situation that we do have. We have to move on this. This is a bit, and I would agree, a bit of a cart before the horse. But again, the reality is that we are in dangerous waters regarding that jail. Any, any sense of non-movement and we will pay a very heavy price... As this project moves along, I think it’s going to become apparent to everyone involved that that jail has been and continues to be a problem for us and those who use it, and also those that are held there in our custody. They are our responsibility.”

The decision reached a nine-to-one approval at the council meeting on Tuesday.

The resolution awards the contract to St. Louis based American design, architecture, engineering, and urban planning firm HOK, formerly known as Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Inc.

The Cuyahoga County Corrections Center Project is slated for the period of July 6, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2025.

The one who voted against the four-and-a-half-year contract with HOK was Councilwoman Nan Baker of District 1.

Here is Baker’s statement in part for her decision at the meeting:

“I too am in agreement that there’s no question, especially after going through the presentation we had in Public Safety Committee, that a jail is needed and the courthouse is kind of up in the air too as to whether we renovate what’s there or whether a new courthouse is built. But I don’t see why we can’t also get a presentation on how maybe different ways of how this will be financed. I don’t know what that would slow us down. I don’t know why that’s difficult to share. I don’t see that as being something we cant overcome quickly.”

President Pernel Jones, Jr. of District 8 recognized the new jail provides an opportunity to create a more humane environment while addressing the challenges known with this county jail, including deaths and structural issues.

Councilman Michael Gallagher of District 5 said he doesn’t even want to consider redoing the courthouse right now.

Here is part of the statement Gallagher made at the meeting:

“This is about moving forward on a jail that’s going to cost the taxpayers of this county multiple tens of millions of dollars in financial settlements for the deaths that we incur. And when I say we incurred them, we incurred them. These people are in our care and custody. That’s on this council and on that executive. We live with that. We live with that every single day. I do. The last call I got from the previous sheriff about the last death that we had came in the middle of the night. It’s a call that you don’t want to get. It wasn’t my brother... wasn’t a sister. It was somebody’s brother... somebody’s family member. That digs deep and it doesn’t go away. But knowing that we can do something about that so it doesn’t happen again... and it will happen again... but we can provide an atmosphere and a facility where it’s less likely to happen. It’s something that again, we have to do.”

County Executive Armond Budish, the Department of Public Works, and the Division of County Engineer sponsored the resolution.

Councilman Jack Schron not in attendance for the meeting.

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