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Financing new Cuyahoga County jail draws another critic

Questions raised about Cuyahoga County

County executive candidate Lee Weingart echoes Prosecutor Michael O’Malley’s call for review of debt; County Executive Armond Budish says bond financing is doable.

CLEVELAND — For more than two years, leaders in the area have been studying how to replace the Cuyahoga County jail, one that they all agree is poorly designed, overcrowded and a source of ongoing problems related to its design.

But now, as Cuyahoga County officials move closer to building a new jail, some are questioning whether the county taxpayers can afford the price tag, expected to be close to $500 million.

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Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley – a member of the new jail steering committee – recently asked if the county can afford to take on new debt to finance the project. O’Malley declined to speak on camera about the issue with 3News’ Mark Naymik, but he first told The Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com that he wants an independent financial review of the county’s borrowing power before committing to a timeline.

Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Lee Weingart, who’s already campaigning in next year’s election for county executive, said in a statement today that he echoes O’Malley’s call for a review of the county’s ability to finance the project.

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Weingart, a Republican, has for months been commenting on County Executive Armond Budish, a Democrat, who has not announced his political plans.

Budish declined an on-camera interview today, but a spokeswoman told 3News that the county has the capacity to borrow money for the project without raising taxes.

County officials are also planning for a new courthouse sometime in the near future. The current one adjoins the jail and is considered inefficient by many. 

The steering committee working on the jail and courthouse project have discussed building a campus-like setting for both facilities.

Final plans and costs have not been settled.

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