Lucas Co. commissioners remove jail levy from ballot, Toledo mayor responds to ongoing feud

Lucas Co. commissioners remove jail levy from ballot, Toledo mayor responds to ongoing feud

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Lucas County Commissioners announced on Friday that they are removing the criminal justice levy from the ballot in November.

This happened after the city and the county could not agree on a site to build a new jail.

Commissioner Pete Gerken said until late Thursday he believed a meeting between the entities would bring good news and they would reach a deal with the city about the Toledo police impound lot.

He says there was $1.5 million difference in what each side thought was fair.

Gerken said he knows the levy will not pass if it is put on the ballot without a site. He said it's disturbing that a deal couldn't be reached.

"The response we got back from the city was, at best, regrettable. It pushed the ball backwards, not forwards, some of the terms in there. When they sent the letter, they knew it was no from the minute it was handed to me, so I'm not sure what their strategy is. I'm not sure if this is a tactic without any strategy, I can't say," Gerken said.

Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson's administration found out from WTOL's Allie Hausfeld about the commissioners walking away from the negotiations, and holding a public meeting about removing the levy.

"From Day 1, I have been committed to resolving this issue and as of yesterday provided them with proposal that we thought was fair and equitable and the response is rather than to come back with a counter proposal, they have a public meeting, read a letter that they have not shared with me, and say it is the city's fault. It is not the city's fault," said Hicks-Hudson.

One of the main reasons the city and county couldn't agree is because Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson wants to solve both the jail site and the pending lawsuit between the two entities at the same time.

The lawsuit over who pays for housing inmates is in front of the 10th district court of appeals in Columbus, after the city won the first case.

Technically the city doesn't have to pay the county, unless a decision is reversed in appeals court. There is no timetable for when a decision could be made.

However, Hicks-Hudson says she is still willing to help pay for the inmates for the next five years. She presented a proposal to the commissioners which would give the county $15 million during the five year span.

Hicks-Hudson says she is not willing to separate the issues, and wanted to reach an agreement on both at the same time, but Gerken did not agree.

"This is just bad policy we believe, bad governments, poor decision making on the Hicks-Hudson administration. Look, this jail site is not part of this lawsuit, we could have resolved that very quickly today. We could be on the way to asking voters with a reasonable site, with a reasonable campaign to move forward. This sets us back months," said Gerken.

Gerken says he believes the impound lot is still a great site, and they may revisit a proposal if there is a new administration after the November election.

He says he still plans on moving forward with plans for a new jail, adding it's needed for the health and safety of the inmates and employees, as well as fighting the opioid epidemic.

Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson released a statement on Friday in which she  said the city has offered the county multiple locations for a jail and that the county was attempting to "swindle" the city's taxpayers with a bad deal.

She also cited the depleted finances of the city compared to the county.

Friday was the last day to contact the board of elections and remove an item from the ballot.

Mayor Hicks-Hudson's complete statement: 

The City has been willing to work with the County from the beginning and is still at the table and willing to negotiate in good faith despite the fact that there is little legal incentive to do so.  However, the Mayor will not let even the County swindle the City with a bad deal.  The County's response to the City's efforts was a demand that the City pay the County $6.5 million a year forever and give them the City's tow lot for free.

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