Cuyahoga County Expected to Borrow $168 Million to Spruce Up Government Buildings

Few Details For Now, But Plenty of Spending at New County HQ and Juvi Justice Center

Yesterday, Cuyahoga County's wildly boring Finance and Budgeting Committee deliberated over $168 million in tax revenue bond debt that would fund a number of building improvements and construction projects around the county — with at least one marquee item being the $1 million worth of sprinkler heads at the Juvenile Justice Center, aka the Juvenile Palace of Disaster.  

The committee will revisit everything next week, but left the public on Monday with the sense that, despite some fiddling with the structure of the debt, this massive undertaking will be approved. It's likely enough, anyway. Stay tuned on that note.

A line item for "tenant improvements" at the new downtown Cuyahoga County headquarters clocks in at $25.6 million. The timing, of course, is curious, as the county just opened its new headquarters in July (and the building is super snazzy... btw, have you seen how the elevators work?). County leaders didn't go into detail about the improvements, but spokesman Rich Luchette said the funding in question deals with already agreed-upon "build-out" costs in the county's contract with building owner Geis Cos. The eight-story building is leased by the county at some $6 million annually for 27 years, per agreements already in place. 

[Nov. 18 update: Christopher Murray, interim director of the county's office of budget and management, summed it up this way: "That money’s already been spent. If we do not replenish these funds via bond proceeds, the general fund will have to cover the deficit." The county is already under state pressure to take care of negative cash balances for various project funds, so tapping the general fund isn't an option — which makes this legislation almost mandatory before the year ends. Councilman Jack Schron analogized the matter at hand: "We've already used our credit card and it’s time to move it into a fixed-rate vehicle."]

The Juvenile Palace of Disaster line item is just more of the same from a county government that can't get this building figured out. Remember when the county was considering raising the ceilings to the tune of some horrifying seven-figure sum? The kids over there can't stop dicking around with the sprinkler heads, "wrongfully discharging" them at least 16 times and costing the county an estimated $29,000 over the years, hence the almost-realized need to raise the ceilings. Well, the county is settling on just replacing the sprinklers. 

(...Following the rules of basic math, wouldn't it seem that just fixing up the sprinklers now and then comes at a lower cost than total replacement?...)

More to come on this resolution, including funding details on the North Coast pedestrian bridge and considerations for the future of the gloomy 38-year-old Justice Center ($1.2 million will fund an independent capital repair study for the latter).

This post has been updated to correct errors in reporting.
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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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