The 2020 jail inspection is scheduled for later this fall, Birk said.
The nearly 45-year-old underground jail shares space with police headquarters on the lower level of the City Building. It was not designed for expansion and the state’s recommended capacity is 34 inmates. The 70-cell jail is one of five municipal full-service jails in Ohio.
“There are some things we just can’t get into compliance,” Birk said. “It’s nothing that the state will come and shut it down. The things we can fix, we’ll fix.
“It’s cost-effective to operate our own jail versus taking prisoners to (the Butler) County Jail. It just makes sense.”
He said he is looking at possible long-term solutions to renovate or possibly replace the city jail with a new facility. The 2020 budget to operate the jail was more than $1.3 million.
City Manager Jim Palenick said work on the jail and replacing the city’s substandard fire stations are major capital projects that require long-term solutions and a funding stream.
“The reality is when substandard facilities are nearing the end of their useful life, we need to look at our future needs and start planning,” he said. “From what I understand, it is economically and operationally less beneficial to the city to close the jail.”
Palenick said he would like to look at building a standalone jail in a new location and determining a plan to pay for it, such as contracting beds with other jurisdictions to cover the debt service.
Many local leaders, past police chiefs, judges, residents and police union members strongly oppose the closing of the Middletown jail when the topic is discussed publicly.
Ohio has 313 detention facilities. The state’s other 87 full-service jails are operated by county sheriffs or are regionalized by multiple counties. The remaining facilities are temporary detention for six to 12 hours or as long as 12 days.