NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — The mayor of North Royalton has decided to close the city's jail, effective at the end of June.
Mayor Larry Antoskiewicz said the jail, which can house up to 18 people, is losing money and has run a $3.5 million deficit over the last five years.
"The numbers just don’t add up," Antoskiewicz said, adding that the deficit helps to subsidize other communities that have closed their own jails and which bring their inmates to North Royalton.
He's made an agreement to transfer inmates to Parma's jail instead, subject to approval by North Royalton City Council. Antoskiewicz estimated the move would save about $650,000 per year, reducing the jail's budget from about $900,000 to $250,000. He hopes to use the savings to add more police officers to the force.
"I don’t know who would run a business losing that kind of money, and that’s what this is," Antoskiewicz said.
But some people don't view it that way. Some North Royalton residents, as well as one city councilman, have said the mayor made this decision unilaterally, behind closed doors, and that there are better options to keep the jail open.
The jail has been open for nearly 30 years and is one of three full-service city jails (jails which can detain inmates for more than 120 hours) in Cuyahoga County.
Detective David Loeding, the public information officer for North Royalton Police Department, said the closure will mean seven full-time and 13-part time corrections officers will lose their jobs, and they wouldn't be able to stay on the force if this goes through.
According to the mayor, North Royalton currently charges $100 a day per inmate for other cities and communities to bring their inmates to the North Royalton jail, a similar rate to what Parma and Solon charge at their jails.
However, in the new agreement with Parma, if approved, North Royalton would be paying approximately $315 per inmate per day to Parma. The mayor's critics asked why North Royalton could not raise its rates to compensate. However, the mayor said it costs close to $500 per inmate per day to house the inmates at the North Royalton jail, and he doesn't believe cities would be willing to pay that.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the city's police chief, Ken Bilinovich, expressed his frustration, saying the mayor decided to close the jail without his input.
Though he's seen many changes over the years, Bilinovich said, "Never in my wildest dreams, though, would I anticipate that, come July 1st, we would not have a single cell in our community to house a prison."
Bilinovich said the jail has never gone over its budget, and he believes it's in the best interest of the city and its residents to keep it open.
"I don’t condone closing our jail," Bilinovich said. "I think it’s taking a major step backward."
Bob MacKay, a North Royalton resident, said he supports keeping the jail open.
"The people of North Royalton voted for this, to have it here," MacKay said. "And it seems to be the voice of one person without reason who just wants to shut it down and take it away."
MacKay said he would like to see the issue brought to the people of North Royalton for a vote, and he also does not want to see corrections officers lose their jobs.
"This is something that we can control," MacKay said. "Those people have jobs and bills and homes and everything else."
Dan Langshaw, who represents Ward 3 on North Royalton City Council, said he'll be voting no on the city's agreement to transfer inmates to Parma if council votes Friday night at a special council meeting.
"I urge him to just do a 90-day pause. Let’s go back to the drawing board, let’s review this," Langshaw said.
Langshaw said there needs to be more transparency and is unhappy with what he views as a unilateral decision.
"If council has the fortitude or the strength to vote it down, it sends the message to the mayor, you know, 'You gotta go clean up this mess or come back to us,'" Langshaw said.
At the meeting, council members are expected to consider whether to approve that agreement with Parma, as well as an agreement with the FOP to give severance to corrections officers who will lose their jobs.
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