Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
By Margie Wuebker
It's almost time for the big switch
New Mercer County jail will soon be ready for use
  After years of planning and 15 months of construction, the new Mercer County Adult Detention Center will be completed Friday.
But, there is still much to do. Furniture is planned to be installed beginning Monday. Then comes the task of moving records and other items. Landscaping and other outdoor work will wait until spring.
Current plans call for employees, with the exception of corrections officers, to report to work at the new $12 million facility the morning of Jan. 4. Dispatchers will be on duty at both the new and old jails until the 911 switchover takes place between midnight Jan. 4 and the early morning hours of Jan. 5.
Inmates will arrive Feb. 28 in time for dinner.
"The inmates will be lodged elsewhere earlier in the day so we can hold public open houses at both sites," Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said. "We want people to have an opportunity to compare the old and the new if they choose."
The sheriff will host open houses for families of his employees, elected officials and the media prior to the public event.   
Corrections officers, headed by Capt. Jodi Lange, will hold "dry runs" on Feb. 5-6 and Feb. 19-20 to make sure everything is in readiness for inmates. Thirty area residents will have an opportunity to experience incarceration with informational pamphlets being prepared before selections are made.
Grey has started hiring personnel in orderly fashion. Judy Koesters joined the office several months ago as part-time human resources/compliance/grievance officer, although the sheriff is quick to point out the pay is considerably less than she earns as an attorney and less than either the chief deputy or the jail administrator.
The position, which involves six to 12 hours of work per week, had been created several years ago but remained unfilled when a former deputy decided not to return. Koesters, who expressed interest in the post, is currently updating the personnel manual to comply with recently enacted legislation and assisting with job interviews.
Connie Kaiser moves from custodian to supervisor of cooking and custodial operations. Lori Pease, Barry Fennig and Mike Moeller are filling two vacancies in corrections. The Mercer County commissioners hired Kevin Tobin as maintenance supervisor.
Two full-time cook/custodian positions will be filled - one in December and the other in January - with a part-time person coming on board in late January or early February. There is a current vacancy in dispatch as well as an impending one.
All county departments, including the sheriff's office, have been asked to cut 10 percent from their budgets. To fulfill the request from the commissioners while satisfying the need for additional corrections officers at the 100-bed facility, Grey plans to transfer four deputies from road duty to the detention center. This will bring the minimum number of cruisers on patrol from three to just two per shift.
Plans call for the hiring of a female corrections officer since the facility will now hold female inmates and a nurse is needed on a part-time basis given the number of inmates.
The sheriff said 2010 will be tight in terms of money with a building payment due and one-time expenses like more phones, computers and televisions. While attempting to hold the line on requests, he must abide by mandates from the Ohio Bureau of Adult Detention requiring televisions and board games for inmates, he said.
He also hopes to generate money for the county general fund by housing prisoners from other jurisdictions. The sheriff and commissioners have set 36 beds as the number available for such purposes.
The 50,000-square-foot jail, located off state Route 29 near the Mercer County Home, is being paid for with a 0.5 percent sales tax passed by voters in November 2007.
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
• Van Wert death suspected as H1N1
• Budget could get another reduction next summer
• Prosecutor calls defense evidence a 'cartoon' in Schwieterman appeal hearing
• State official commends farmers on conservation work
• Residents attend council meeting to hear about cleanup
• Openings still available for H1N1 clinic Tuesday in Wapakoneta
• $2 million East Jefferson sewer project moving ahead
• Educators divided over credit flexibility policy
• Sheriff seeking grants for GPS equipment in cruisers
• Area business tries to expand sales
• Welder to fix, fabricate
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