The Portage-Geauga Joint Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to maintain current practices at the Portage-Geauga County Juvenile Detention Center despite concerns over the facility's financial state.
Public records reveal that for months, members of the board have been debating on whether or not to allow expanded use of the facility through a system of renting bed space to surrounding counties.
The center is located on Infirmary Road in Shalersville Township, but is funded and utilized by both counties for juvenile delinquents.
Judge Robert Berger and Judge Timothy Grendell, as well as representatives from both counties, sit on the PCJDC Joint Board of Trustees. That board has sole authority under state law to set policy and operations standards in a joint facility like the PCJDC.
On Tuesday, the joint board of commissioners approved a resolution passed down by the board of trustees to "maintain the current practice that the PCJDC shall not contract bed space with other counties." The resolution does grant both judges authority to make exceptions.
That resolution should act as a final note in the months-long debate over the future of the facility.
PCJDC Superintendent Thomas Rehnert said Tuesday that the facility typically averages 50 percent capacity. With those numbers, finding cost-saving measures that would benefit both counties have been discussed, but no action has been taken. It is unclear what the exact financial status of the facility is.
Geauga County Commissioner Skip Claypool has advocated for a system of renting open bed space at the facility for delinquents from other counties. But that idea has been shut down on multiple occasions by both judges, who say that system could violate state law.
In January, Judge Berger sent a admonishing memo to commissioners in Geauga stating that neither county boards "have any input on the operation of the PCJDC."
That memo followed a detailed letter in November outlining the differences between the juvenile youth and adult criminal systems in both counties, as well as the needs for both. The PCDJC deals with rehabilitation programs, the letter states, and mixing in more violent offenders from other counties who are less-likely to be rehabilitated could disrupt that process.
Both boards of commissioners opted to forgo detailed discussion of ways to save money at the facility, as Rehnert noted the detention center was already operating on a shoestring budget.