COLUMBUS – Members of Ohio House passed HB 101 on Wednesday, which would create a formula for funding the construction of a county jail in Ohio.
The Ohio County Commissioners Association welcomed the passage of the bill by the Ohio House in a press release.
âThe counties are the backbone of the administration of the justice system in Ohio,â CCAO President Tim Bubb said in the CCAO statement. “This funding mechanism will help allocate future state investments in the construction and renovation of county jails to help counties provide safe and secure prison facilities, which ultimately promotes public safety.”
In 2019, the CCAO found that 17 Ohio counties were looking to build new prisons, for a total cost of over $ 1 billion, and 31 counties were looking to renovate, repair and expand prisons with prizes. exceeding $ 350 million.
The bill would rank counties and allocate funds to them based on need, according to a press release from the Ohio House of Representatives.
Representative Sarah Fowler Arthur, whose district includes the majority of Ashtabula County, voted in favor of the bill.
“HB 101 recognizes the many demands that the state has placed on local governments to provide modern prison facilities,” Fowler Arthur said in the statement. âIf passed, it would allow counties like Ashtabula to apply for state dollars to update outdated facilities and help meet the needs of local prisons. “
The program would be funded from the state investment budget, the statement said. The state’s most recent capital budget provided for $ 50 million for the construction of prisons.
The bill is yet to be passed by the Ohio Senate and signed by Governor Mike DeWine before it becomes law.
Ashtabula County Commissioner Casey Kozlowski thanked Fowler Arthur for supporting the bill and said the CCAO and many county commissioners across the state would pressure the Senate to adopt the bill.
“If we were successful in this legislation, it would finally establish a state-level model to start working with counties on their prison plans,” Kozlowski said. “We strongly believe this would mean funds for Ashtabula County.”
Kozlowski said the implemented plan will mean a lot to the county.
He compared the proposed system for county jail funding to the Ohio School Facilities Board, which helped build a number of new schools in the county several years ago.
The ranking of Ashtabula County on the state’s priority prison list is currently unknown, Kozlowski said.
âWe know ours is pretty bad, but we know there are probably even worse ones all over the state of Ohio,â he said. “So it’s a question of where we would be on that priority list, but we obviously hope we would be on the top.”
The Ashtabula County Council of Commissioners and members of the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office spoke to constituents in the county, encouraging them to vote for a 0.5% sales tax increase to fund construction of ‘a new county jail.
Kozlowski said the campaign to push through the sales tax increase will continue.
“We don’t know if this legislation will materialize,” Kozlowski said. In addition to having to be passed by the Ohio Senate and promulgated by the governor, the program will need to be supported by regular funding from the legislature.
“The commissioners have promised that if we receive additional funds to help with this project, we will have the opportunity to reduce this local obligation which is demanded of local taxpayers,” Kozlowski said.