By JIM LANGHAM • Progress Feature Writer
Paulding County Sheriff Jason Landers has announced a series of meetings to discuss the possibility of reopening the Paulding County Jail.
“My purpose at the conclusion of these meetings is simply to have a show of hands on how many folks want to see an operating levy on the ballot and how many don’t,” said Landers. “I will then work with the commissioners to see what direction we should take.”
The meeting schedule is as follows:
• July 17 – 6 p.m. at Auglaize Fire Department, 7:30 p.m. at Crane Township Fire Department
• July 18, – 6 p.m. at Grover Hill Fire Department, 7:30 p.m. at Scott Fire Department
• July 21 – 6 p.m. Paulding Fire Department, 7:30 p.m. at Antwerp Fire Department
• July 22 – 6 p.m. Oakwood Fire Department, 7:30 p.m. at Payne Fire Department.
“I would like to talk with our taxpayers about options with the jail for the future,” said Landers. “I plan to share information, give attendees a chance to speak and then ask for a show of hands at the end of the meeting. I want to give citizens a choice.”
Landers said that he is considering putting an operating levy on the ballot this November, if there is enough sentiment to warrant it. The sheriff said that plans would be for around a 1-mill operating levy that would generate a little more than $400,000 a year. He noted that actual operational costs over a $250,000 increase per year adding just eight full-time employees, and over $400,000 if the jail went back up to the staff it had in 2008, but there is some uncertainty as to how much it could be costing by the end of five years.
“We are a union shop that never closes and will have two contract negotiations within the next five years. That makes projections a little more difficult,” said Landers.
“I project that if we were to open the jail, it would take at least a year to get it open,” said Landers. “We would have to train workers, do inspections, make sure it’s back up to standards and look at anything else it would take to properly open it. Some things may have changed because of the time that has elapsed (six years) since the jail was open.
“We want to make it clear that it will cost more money to open the jail than to send the prisoners to other facilities,” said Landers. “But, it is also true that money that is [currently] leaving the county will come back to the county. There will be eight to 12 new full-time jobs and a host of part-time jobs needed to reopen. We will spend more money here, they will pay their income tax here and hopefully live here. Hopefully all of that economic impact will offset the additional cost of operating the jail.”
Landers said that the issue that the public generally doesn’t see is the time and expense of sending county employees to other facilities to transfer prisoners. It takes 45-50 minutes to drive one way to carry our local responsibilities to Putnam County.
“One of the biggest issues the public doesn’t see is the safety issue,” noted the sheriff. “I think of how many trips we’ve made in six years and nobody has been hurt.
“For residents who have inmates in jail, it would be nice if they wouldn’t have to drive so far to see them,” continued Landers.
Landers said that he is aware that having the meetings could stir up some emotions.
“I just want to see where people are at on this,” Landers said. “I am thinking of our responsibility to tax payers about what they want on this. I am not thinking about cost as much as what this can bring back to Paulding economically.”