Archived Story

Governor agrees to review ORVJCF closure

Published 9:52am Tuesday, June 21, 2011

DYS still says Franklin Furnace center will close in September

Gov. John Kasich has agreed to review information that makes the case on why the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility should stay open.

That’s what came from a meeting Kasich had Monday afternoon with State Rep. Terry Johnson and two employees from the facility, according to Lawrence County Commissioner Les Boggs.

“The packet was created by some of the staff at ORV with facts and figures,” Boggs said. “Some of which was pretty impressive.”

Connie Wehrkamp, a spokeswoman for Kasich’s office, said Johnson is a strong advocate for his community and the employees at ORV.

“The governor respects their views and was glad to take time to meet with them today,” Wehrkamp said.

The Department of Youth Services announced in March its plans to close the facility in September due to budget cuts. Kasich’s budget calls for $41 million reduction in funding for the department over the next two years. The need for those cuts is the result of the $8 billion deficit the governor inherited. Closing the facility would save more than $20 million a year, department officials said.

Declining population is another reason that’s been offered for the center’s proposed closure.

Boggs, along with Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship and Commissioner Bill Pratt, had gone to Columbus to meet earlier Monday with staff from the Department of Youth Services to make a similar case to save the Franklin Furnace facility. That meeting did not produce the results those in support of the center had wanted.

“The DYS is pretty dug in,” Boggs said. “They want to close the facility. They have taken a strong stand. But the governor did state he was going to look at this information tonight. He didn’t say he would come back with an answer tomorrow.”

Lawrence County officials met with DYS staff, along with Johnson and members of the governor’s office, for 45 minutes. The meeting with the governor lasted an hour, 30 minutes more than had been scheduled.

“(DYS) didn’t even say they would review anything,” Boggs said. “If the governor says he will look at it, I believe absolutely if he looked (at the information), he will see the reasons why it shouldn’t be closed. … I am guardedly hopeful. I really believe if he truly looks with an open mind to the facts and figures, that this is not the facility to close to help the state in the budget crunch.”

Scott Evans, a legislative aide in Johnson’s office said Johnson and the ORV employees were guardedly optimistic about the meeting and Kasich’s agreement to review the information. There’s no way of knowing if the meetings will affect DYS’s decision to close, he said.

Reached Monday afternoon, DYS spokeswoman Andrea Kruse called the meeting between ORV employees and local officials an opportunity to further discuss the department’s budget and why ORV will close in September. The decision to close the facility stands, she said.

Blankenship encouraged the community to pray about the governor’s decision.

“I think we had a very good meeting with DYS officials…” Blankenship said. “(Gov. Kasich) has agreed to review the packet and right now that’s all I can tell you.”

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