Allen County will spend $4 million on new work-release center; will help clear path for sale of Byron property

The county will convert this former state juvenile jail into its new work-release center. ( file photo)
Sheriff Dave Gladieux, left, and program Director Michael Biltz stand outside the county's current work-release center at 12103 Lima Road. ( file photo by Kevin Leininger)

A long-vacant state juvenile detention facility will get a new tenant next year in a move that would help free up 135 acres of prime Allen County-owned real estate for possible development.

The County Commissioners Friday awarded a contract for nearly $4 million to CME Corp. for the conversion of the former Northeast Juvenile Correctional Facility at 7117 Venture Lane into the county’s new work-release center. The center, which helps ease overcrowding in the county jail by providing secure housing for offenders when they aren’t at work, is currently in a dilapidated century-old building on the county-owned Byron Health Center at 12101 Lima Road. But with the health center planning a move to a new facility off Lake Avenue, the relocation of Sheriff Dave Gladieux’s work-release operation will remove one of the last obstacles to the potentially lucrative sale of the 135-acre site, Commissioner Therese Brown said.

According to Gladieux, the current work-release facility suffers from an inadequate electrical system, heating and roofing issues, security challenges and other problems. And the Venture Lane site, which was built in 1992, vacated in 2010 and was bought by the county in 2016 for $1.35 million, will more than double the current building’s 103-bed capacity. A larger work-release center could serve as a “pressure valve” should the jail become overcrowded, Gladieux said.

Developer Barry Sturges is working with the county to prepare the Lima Road property for sale and redevelopment. Brown said buildings and old tunnels that once linked the county’s tuberculosis sanitarium there will be removed.