Oriana House soon will own the former women’s jail facility on Power Street in Akron.
The county-owned building is a halfway house, or residential community corrections facility, for women and has been under the management of the private company, Oriana House Inc., since 1991.
The county routinely hires Oriana House to provide such alternatives to jail as drug and alcohol abuse treatment, halfway houses, work release and house arrest monitoring. This year, the county’s contract for Oriana’s services totals $5 million.
Clients at the Power Street facility either are referred directly by the court instead of given jail time or are serving the rest of a prison sentence.
The president and CEO of Oriana House, Jim Lawrence, called acquiring the Power Street building a real plus. He said it is structurally sound, has a lot of character and is already zoned for their purposes.
“It’s important for us to be at a place we don’t have to worry about zoning. The facility has had a long history of the kind of use we currently use it for,” Lawrence said. “It was originally a juvenile detention center, then was used by Children Services, then the county used it as a jail and now a residential corrections facility.”
Lawrence said Oriana intends to limit housing to about 60 clients, so that it’s not too crowded, even though capacity is listed at 85. Some of the clients also are approved to go to work or attend school. There is also a separate unit with beds designated for SHARP (Special Housing Adjustment Residential Program), a halfway house program for adult offenders with a diagnosis of mental illness.
The Power Street building is located on a residential street with only 15 properties and has been part of the neighborhood as a dorm-like facility for about 80 years.
Summit County used the facility as a jail for women until the new jail on East Crosier Street was built. In 1992, it included the women’s facility or a separate pod for women.
In 1991, Oriana House and the county signed an operating agreement.
“The agreement provided that in the event that the county no longer needed the building, it could go out and solicit bids for the building, then sell the building for its market value,” said Jason Dodson chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry. “But if Oriana House was the high bidder on the property, Oriana House would be able to buy it and deduct from its purchase price what it paid out on improvements it made on the property.”
Dodson said the building has been appraised at $383,500, so whatever Oriana put in the facility for capital improvements could be used toward the purchase.
Oriana House Executive Vice President Bernie Rochford said Oriana has invested about $1.4 million in renovations over the past couple of decades.
“We did about $600,000 worth of rehab to get it usable, ripping out the caged rooms with one or two toilets and showers off to a corner,” Rochford said. “Other major renovations were the redesign of the main staff post area. We opened up walls for better lines of sight and put some windows in the area which were better for coverage issues.
“A handicapped ramp was built, and we had to redo the parking lot because it started to sink. We added a fenced in outdoor area and two years ago the entire foundation had to be rebuilt,” he said.
Rochford said that although it sounds like a lot of money, over the life of the building, the improvements were worth it.
“We put a lot of money into renovations, but if you look at the current value of the building versus if you tried to replace the building, it would be apples to oranges,” he said. “It would cost about $2 million or $3 million to build a brand new facility.”
The Power Street facility was built in 1930 and includes 14,480 square feet of space.
Oriana House has 14 facilities in Summit County as well as facilities in Seneca, Cuyahoga and Erie counties.
The measure will go before Summit County Council for a full vote Monday. It has already been approved by council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.