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Government & Politics

Proposed Cuyahoga County jail site moves forward at slower pace as environmental study planned

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The proposed site for the new jail is on privately owned land close to Downtown Cleveland and, unlike a nearby site that the county considered, has the support of the local city councilman.

Cuyahoga County officials planning for a new jail are slowing down the process of buying land.

The committee of county, city and court officials dubbed the Justice Center Executive Steering Committee voted Thursday to delay approval of a jail site in the Industrial Valley near Downtown Cleveland until a new environmental study of the land is performed.

The Thursday meeting was the second with a scheduled vote on the preferred property. The first meeting ending with no vote after strong opposition from community members during the public comment period.

Cleveland Law Director Mark Griffin, who introduced an amendment to the site’s approval that required the environmental review, along with opening up the process to more public engagement and further study of other possible sites, said the city supports building a new jail.

“But only if that can be done on a piece of land that can be remediated up to residential use,” Griffin said.

A Standard Oil refinery sat on the site for decades, closing in 1966. Environmental work on the site began in 1995, and the most recent soil testing was done about 20 years ago.

John Garvey, the county’s environmental consultant, told committee members the most serious risk remaining there is likely to be petroleum vapors coming up from the soil, but the risk has most likely decreased over time.

“There will be a vapor barrier and mitigation system under any new building,” Garvey said.

All of the committee members present voted to go ahead with consideration of the 45-acre piece of land that’s currently a trucking storage and maintenance facility. Two members from county council, Public Safety Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher and Council President Pernel Jones, left before the vote.

It’s not clear when the county might move ahead with buying the land. The environmental study alone is expected to take about eight weeks.