As we prepare for a new year, the Record-Courier examines what will likely be some of the top stories across Portage County in 2018.
1. Jail expansion should begin
After years of discussion and debate over the imposition of a quarter-percent sales and use tax, Portage County residents will finally start to see visible results.
Before July, county commissioners are expected to break ground at the county jail on Infirmary Road in Shalersville. The project? A nearly $21 million expansion of the existing facility.
With a new pod in place, the county jail can address overcrowding issues, especially in the women’s section. Sheriff Dave Doak cited female inmate population totals double that of the legal capacity when he asked for the expansion.
Details on the facility have yet to be released. County administrators are currently working with an architect that specializes in jail construction to finalize the plans.
Doak expects to see increasing population numbers overall after the state decided to limit the number of inmates with low-level felonies housed in state-run facilities, meaning more inmates must be housed by the county.
2. More sales tax spending?
In 2015, when commissioners imposed the sales tax, they did so with a pledge to voters: The estimated $25 million in revenue would be used to expand the jail, increase road patrol officers at the Sheriff’s office, and use leftover funds to implement drug-related education or prevention programs.
A subcommittee sent proposals worth nearly $1.4 million for such programs to the commissioners in July, but the board has yet to address them.
Portage residents could see increased funding to the Mental Health and Recovery Board, which funds countless programs like Townhall II, Children’s Advantage, Coleman Professional Services and Family and Community Services Inc.
University Hospitals Portage Medical Center, the county drug