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Cuyahoga County Council approves Garfield Heights site for new jail

 An aerial view of the proposed location for a new Cuyahoga County jail.
Ygal Kauffman
Ideastream Public Media
Seen here is an aerial view of the proposed location for a new Cuyahoga County jail

Cuyahoga County Council voted to move ahead with the purchase of land in Garfield Heights to build a new jail. But the sales tax extension that would pay for the construction is headed back to committee for further discussion.

The land purchase passed by an 8-3 vote, with councilmembers Cheryl Stephens, Yvonne Conwell and Sunny Simon voting no.

Cuyahoga County will purchase about 72 acres from the Craig Realty Group for $38.7 million.

Some council members pressed Council President Pernel Jones to allow more time for the consideration of a site in Cleveland before moving ahead. But Jones said the council had to vote on the Garfield Heights site proposed by County Executive Chris Ronayne.

“As passionate as we are, the reality is we have to deal with what’s in front of us,” Jones said. “And that’s what this body is going to do, for better or worse, we’re going to deal with what’s in front of us.”

A 40-year sales tax extension was put off until another day. Jones decided to send it back to the Committee of the Whole for further discussion.

The sales tax increase was originally passed in 2007 to pay for the Global Center for Health Innovation, commonly known as Medical Mart, and is scheduled to expire in 2027.

Councilmember Sunny Simon criticized the decision to pass legislation to purchase land without having a way to pay for construction in place, and several councilmembers support putting a sales tax extension on the ballot.

After five years of meetings, planning and debate, culminating with an at-times contentious discussion Tuesday night, Councilmember Michael Gallagher told council it’s time to move forward.

“We have withstood lies, politics, personal wants, personal attacks, vendettas, threats, and we withstood it all,” Gallagher said. “What I would propose is we close the discussion, have the vote and see where we end up.”

The county now moves into a “due diligence” period before the land purchase becomes official and predicts the entire project will come in at about $750 million.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.