XENIA — Greene County voters officially failed Issue 12, which would have funded the construction of a new county jail through a sales tax increase.
Final results, certified by the Greene County Board of Elections May 19 in the official canvass, showed a total of 22,920 no votes and 14,205 yes votes. After extending the March 17 primary at the last minute due to the COVID-19 crisis, Ohio allowed citizens to vote by mail up until April 28.
Passing of the 12-year, .25 percent sales tax increase would have allowed for the building of a new $70 million, 500-bed Greene County Jail. Currently, the sheriff’s department consists of three facilities in Xenia: a 51-year-old, 146-bed downtown jail; the nearly-100-year-old Ford dealership building housing sheriff’s offices nearby; and a 20-year-old, 236-bed Adult Detention Center on Greeneway Boulevard, originally built as temporary housing due to overcrowding.
Advocates for the jail issue used the conditions of the downtown jail as a main argument. Besides poor building conditions and lack of space, proponents urged the importance of having specific areas designated for certain groups of people, as well as having areas set aside for rehabilitation services and “transformational” programs.
“The buildings are still in bad shape and something’s gotta be done eventually,” Sheriff Gene Fischer said by phone Tuesday night. “We can’t wait for them to completely fall down.”
For now, Fischer said he doesn’t anticipate putting the issue back on the ballot in November. He’ll sit down with the county commissioners to decide the next course of action.
“They spent a lot of money to have an outside party come in and tell us how bad of shape the buildings are in. We thought we had a good plan,” he added. “We’ll see where we go from there.”
Throughout the campaign, many opponents of the issue agreed with the sheriff — that a new facility was needed. But when it came to size, they disagreed.
“Our group is encouraged by the Issue 12 results, because we feel it shows that voters want the commissioners to take a significantly different approach on the jail issue, especially in these pandemic times,” Jim Leonard, member of the Greene County Citizens Against Giant Jail Tax group, said by email.
Leonard said the group plans to reach out to the commissioners and the sheriff, as well as “churches, people who have been incarcerated, businesses, and citizens from all parts of the county.”
“We intend to form a coalition that will advocate for a reasonably sized new jail, robustly funded treatment programs, and evidence-based methods to keep the jail population at a level that is good for everybody — and to achieve all this at a huge cost savings, compared to Issue 12’s $70 million tax increase,” Leonard said.
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