By BRIAN BOHNERT
A proposed expansion to the Wood County Justice Center would save the county money and greatly reduce the jail’s overcrowding epidemic, Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said Thursday.
Wasylyshyn appeared before the Wood County Commissioners Thursday morning to further explain his planned $2.8 million renovation of the East Gypsy Lane facility.
The jail, first occupied in June 1990, currently operates with just 149 beds in its housing unit, the sheriff said. This renovation would look to yield nearly a 50 percent increase, adding an additional 75 beds.
Under his proposed plan, no physical structures would be added to the jail. Instead, crews would convert a large, unused building into a housing unit and perform renovations on a medium-sized space in the minimum security wing.
While he has been working on this project for the last eight years, Wasylyshyn said a lack of space in the jail has been a problem since long before he took the reigns as Wood County’s sheriff.
In fact, he said prisoners are often housed at jails in nearby counties, costing $45 per inmate per day.
“Long term, it’s going to save us money,” Wasylyshyn said. “It’s much better to have inmates in our county than in other counties due to holding costs. It is also better for inmates with health issues.”
Over the years, Wasylyshyn said the county has spent “millions of dollars” housing their prisoners in neighboring counties. Jails in Ottawa, Putnam, Crawford and Van Wert counties are common destinations for “overflow” inmates.
The commissioners have yet to approve the project. Wasylyshyn said they still have to determine what is to be done right away and what elements of the expansion can be put off.
As for how to pay for the proposed expansion? The sheriff said the county will also mull over whether or not to use cash or bonds.
With the architectural drawings already finished, Wasylyshyn said the work could realistically begin in three months with the first phase of the renovations seeing completion six to eight months after that.
“(The commissioners) know it has to be done,” Wasylyshyn said. “They’re just doing their due diligence to dot all the I’s and cross the T’s.”
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