Like those of its fellow members, Fulton County’s relationship with the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio is up in the air, at least until today.
That’s the deadline the City of Toledo was given to pony up nearly $1.4 million, its quarterly amount to cover the cost of 228 CCNO beds used by inmates sentenced through the city’s court system. The city says the money isn’t available, and wasn’t earmarked in its 2015 budget.
Toledo administrators claim that that financial responsibility now lies with Lucas County, since last fall former Mayor D. Michael Collins ordered city police to make arrests and write citations under the Ohio Revised Code rather than city ordinance. The ensuing disagreement between the city and county has continued for almost a year.
According to CCNO Executive Director Jim Dennis, Toledo historically has paid for beds at CCNO and the Lucas County Jail. “This cost shift would obviously be a large cost shift not in the county’s favor,” he said.
Toledo’s failure to pay its share of CCNO’s quarterly revenue by today would cause the facility to run out of operating money by Dec. 1. Under those circumstances, the board of directors would meet Friday at the Henry County Emergency Operations Center to issue specific directions concerning the facility’s future. They could include closing down the center partially or entirely, and laying off employees to accommodate the shutdown.
Toledo’s share of CCNO’s annual $16.1 million operating budget is reportedly about $5.7 million. Its quarterly payment equals about a month’s worth of operating costs.
At present, CCNO has implemented no plan for, and given no directions concerning, the city’s possible failure to pay, Dennis said. But that result would portend problems for CCNO’s other members, Fulton, Henry, Defiance, Williams, and Lucas counties.
“If we shut down, or if we reduce the count…(they) are going to have a need for additional jail beds,” he said. “The reality of the situation is, there’s no beds close to these five counties that could accommodate this number of offenders. Obviously, this is a pretty serious crossroads.”
In May, CCNO modified its operating agreement to include stronger language regarding each member’s responsibility for the beds they originally reserved. “I think that’s very reasonable, and the City of Toledo took exception to it,” Dennis said.
In fact, the city announced plans at that time to leave the 638-bed facility in favor of replacing its own longtime jail facility.
Reportedly, there are no corrections facilities within 100 miles that could replace the 55 beds Fulton County holds at CCNO for its inmates. The county’s share represents 10 percent of the facility’s total annual income.
Fulton County Commissioner and CCNO board member Jeff Rupp said the center’s staff has drafted scenarios for several different outcomes should Toledo fail to pay.
“We just need to know exactly what we’re dealing with before we make a definite plan,” he said. “I don’t know if we’d have a decision on Friday but we’d have to start taking a hard look at what our options are. I remain hopeful that Toledo and Lucas County are going to get this thing worked out.”
Dennis said he remains optimistic that Toledo and Lucas County can reach a settlement.
“It’s my hope that everybody’s going to pay their bills on time, and things will operate normally. It seems to be a political situation between Lucas County and the City of Toledo, and we’re hoping they work it out,” he said. “It’s my hope we can keep the six members together.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.