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Friday, October 26, 2007

Hamilton County Jail Tax: Court-Ordered Letter Puts Cost At $110,000 Per Bed

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A letter is being sent to more than 1,000 county workers under a legal settlement in an unfair campaign-practices lawsuit filed by jail tax opponents against Hamilton County officials. The letter raises financial questions about the $198 million pricetag for building a new hoosegow. It says the 1,800-inmate facility is estimated to cost $110,000 per bed. It notes that neighboring Warren County is adding capacity for 180 prisoners at a cost of $28,000 per bed. And Butler County spent $35 million in 2003 on a new jail for 800 inmates. There, the cost worked out to about $43,000 per bed.

Jail tax opponents are hammering on a theme that the project smells like a boondoggle.

Politics Extra was first to obtain the letter and posted a link to it the web. The letter was drafted by Jeffrey Capell, the plaintiff in a lawsuit contending Sheriff Simon Leis wrongly used county time and facilities to campaign for the jail. The letter opposing the jail tax was paid for by COAST, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes. That organization was founded by State Rep. Tom Brinkman, a Cincinnati Republican who is the state's top anti-tax hawk.

Capell says the sales tax increase is unnecessary and he pained the jail project as a government pork project.

"Remember, the land in Hamilton County has been donated. In Butler County, they had to acquire the land as part of the construction costs. Why is the cost of our jail two or three times per cell what these immediately adjoining counties spend on jail spaces?"

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