Gallia explores detention center funding options

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Commissioners spoke with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Thursday morning as they continue efforts to seek funding for a new detention facility to replace an aged one and meet housing requirements for an ever-growing inmate population.

USDA Community Facilities Funding representatives Kari Zimmerman and Teresa Ullman spoke with commissioners.

“We’re looking at a corrections center and in the exploring phases,” said Commissioner David Smith. “We also have a work release center and we’ve not decided what will be built yet.”

County Administrator Karen Sprague said in her research there may potentially be other money to help build a detention center from workforce development sources, if the Gallia Work Release Center is integrated into the potential detention center and/or training programs.

If the county were to sign with USDA for a loan at the current moment, it could be for a fixed rate at roughly 4.25 percent interest and for 40 years. Rates change every quarter, said USDA representatives.

Commissioners spoke with a legal firm specializing in public sector projects in March regarding a new detention center.

Commissioners are considering a 100-bed structure or more, as previously reported. They estimated a $10 million budget for the creation of such a building and are still in discussions as to where to locate it. The current Gallia Jail is considered a 22-bed facility in the Gallia Courthouse basement and previous information shared by county meetings has indicated it is sometimes holding double its intended capacity and in high need of updating.

“We are constantly facing a battle in our (corrections system),” said Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin after welcoming legal counselors at the March meeting. “We are daily running transports all over the state of Ohio as far away as Van Wert County just to accommodate our needs of housing prisoners. Since 2016, we’ve seen a big increase in our daily average population. In 2018, our daily average population was around 86 (inmates) per day. The vast majority of those we’re having to outsource (to corrections facilities out of county)…The criminal element has changed over the last 70 years and the type of prisoner we’re holding.”

Having taken effect in April, the new sales tax rate across Gallia is 7.25 percent. Commissioners raised the tax a quarter of a percent after a unanimous vote in January, citing emergency concerns with county funding and the opioid epidemic. The raise is estimated to bring roughly $600,000 to $700,000 into the general fund annually.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright