Grassroots group one step closer to putting initiative on November ballot

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The board of elections is set to begin looking over a petition handed in Tuesday to keep the Lucas County Jail in Downtown Toledo.

The grassroots group, "Keep the Jail in Downtown Toledo," had nearly 60 volunteers collecting signatures for the past several months. Tuesday, they turned in their hard work in the form of more than 10,000 signatures to keep the jail downtown.

The Lucas County Board of Elections will have to validate those signatures and the language of the petition before it can be put onto the ballot in November.

"We did this in 17 weeks," explained Mary Dutkowski, a member of the group, Keep the Jail in Downtown Toledo. "Over 10,000 signatures. It really was easy. People were very willing to sign, they were very very supportive."

Tuesday the group Keep the Jail in Downtown Toledo walked their petitions into One Government Center to be validated by the board of elections.

The group made up of neighbors believe the jail should stay downtown because of all the jail services that exist there currently. They also don't want to see it move into a neighborhood and feel this proposed location in north Toledo will cost additional time and transportation funds for law enforcement.

They received 10,583 signatures. The group feels that this demonstrates that the majority of people in the county agree with them.

"I think that Lucas County and City of Toledo people believe the jail belongs downtown," said Dutkowski. "It belongs with the courthouse and support services like we've been saying all along."

County Commissioner Pete Gerken said he supports their right to petition, but maintains that the jail does not work downtown and would cost taxpayers an additional $25 million.

"It doesn't fit in downtown, it just doesn't fit," explained Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken. "It doesn't make sense. It costs too much money. We have a site on North Detroit that's going to be economic, we got the site for less than $1,000,000 not $25 million . So, just the land acquisition costs alone and the streets you would have to vacate it doesn't make sense."

The jail levy will be on the November ballot. It's $185 million over 37 years to build a 650 bed jail and deflection center.

Commissioner Gerken said the group's petition has not changed their plans.

"Our path is clear we need a new jail, we have good reason to ask the public to support it," said Commissioner Gerken. "We're going to run a campaign based on those very sound financial and ethical, responsible issues. They are going to run their campaign. Their campaign is just about where it is and is not, we're beyond that. We need a new jail, we need the reform, we need the deflection center and we're going to build it at a very great location."

The group "Keep the Jail in Downtown Toledo" believes the project is too big and expensive.

Their next step is much like the county commissioners. They wait for the board of election's decision on their petition and begin campaigning.

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