Saturday, January 09, 1999

Ohio 4 tract seen as top jail site

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A 14-acre tract behind the Butler County Engineer's Building on Ohio 4 is the new front-runner in the search for a site for a new county jail.

        The county-owned Hamilton site would be far less expensive than any of the other four possible jail sites, which the county would have to purchase.

        “It would be a tremendous savings,” said Commissioner Chuck Furmon, who suggested the site.

        The new jail would be only two miles from the Government Services Center, a new building that will house the courts when it opens in the late summer. The proposed jail site is in the 1900 block of Fairgrove Avenue (Ohio 4) and is next to the Butler County Fairgrounds.

        “Barring something unforeseen, it makes a lot of sense to look at this site,” said Commissioner Mike Fox, chairman of the Jail Work Group, an advisory group developing plans for a new jail. “It may very well end up being the best site.”

        The commissioners authorized County Administrator Derek Conklin to hire an environmental consultant to study this site and a proposed 10.8-acre downtown site.

        But Mr. Furmon and Mr. Fox said they don't believe there are any environmental problems with the Ohio 4 site.

        The county wants to build a jail because its existing one, constructed in 1971 to house 80 prisoners, is chronically overcrowded and is deteriorating. It often houses more than 180 inmates.

        The Jail Work Group is proposing a 400-bed jail with the possibility of double-celling up to 800. It hasn't decided on a site.

        The primary drawbacks to the downtown site, the commissioners say, are the cost and the delay caused by having to buy small parcels and relocate residents and businesses.

        The downtown site would cost $4.9 million to acquire the property, demolish buildings, relocate residents and businesses, and pay administrative ex penses, according to an estimate by David Saunders, a real estate broker.

        Mr. Saunders reviewed the financial costs connected with five possible jail sites for the Jail Work Group.

        The downtown site is bounded by Sycamore, Ludlow and Third streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

        The other three sites that have been considered are:

        • The 15.2-acre former Deuscher Foundry property on Hanover Street near Seventh Street. The estimated cost would be $2.6 million.

        • The 15.1-acre former Hamilton Tool property now owned by Stevens International on Hanover Street. It carries an estimated price tag of $2 million.

        • The 20.2-acre CSX Railroad tract between Pleasant Avenue and the tracks.

        The two main disadvantages to these three sites are the probability of high environmental cleanup costs and the presence of active railroad tracks, Mr. Furmon said.

        “The jail not only houses prisoners but also the patrol division, which responds to emergencies in the whole county,” he said. “Trains would block patrol cars ... on many occasions.”


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