A screenshot of Cuyahoga County Council Member Martin Sweeney discussing the proposed purchase of land for a new county jail in Garfield Heights at the Cuyahoga County Council Committee of the Whole meeting on July 24, 2023.
Cuyahoga County Council Member Martin Sweeney discussing the proposed purchase of land for a new county jail in Garfield Heights. Credit: Cuyahoga County YouTube

Covered by Documenter Regina Samuels (live-tweet thread)

What happened

Cuyahoga County Council is debating the site and cost of a new county jail. Council discussed County Executive Chris Ronayne’s proposed location: 71 acres of land in Garfield Heights. The land would cost up to about $38.7 million. To construct a new jail, however, some county officials estimate the total cost would be $750 million or more. To finance the project, the county also proposes to extend an additional .25% sales and use tax. The county wants to extend the tax, which is set to expire in 2027, for 40 years. The potential tax extension requires public hearings. This was the first of two. The second public hearing is Aug. 1 at 5 p.m. There will also be discussion at the 1 p.m. Committee of the Whole meeting held that day.

Cost concerns

Not everyone agrees on the $750 million estimate to build the jail. “There’s no way that that figure stays static from last year with the cost of inflation,” said Council Member Sunny Simon. She expressed concern about enough money being available.

Procedural issues, too

To address that concern, Simon offered a change to the proposed purchase of the Garfield Heights location. It would make approval of the purchase contingent on approval of the sales tax extension for the purpose of constructing a jail. Discussion of the amendment turned into a spat between Simon and Council Member Martin Sweeney. Saying he was learning of the proposed amendment for the first time, Sweeney asked Simon how long she had been working on it. Simon refused to answer that question. She later withdrew the motion to approve the change.

Read more from Documenter Regina Samuels:

Signal background

Assignment Editor (he/him)
Doug, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a copy editor and reporter. His work includes: The Pace of Passage about how quickly Cleveland City Council passes legislation; a look at the challenges of the city’s Exterior Home Paint program; and University Circle Police Department’s complaint-review process. Doug has also written explainers and guides and launched #CLEDocsAnswers, which answers questions Documenters have about local government.

Cleveland Documenters pays and trains people to cover public meetings where government officials discuss important issues and decide how to spend taxpayer money.