Archived Story

Sheriff continues quest to get more funding for office

Published 10:10am Friday, November 9, 2012

Calls the situation desperate


Any more layoffs at the sheriff’s office could mean a county without a jail. And if that were to happen, the closure could be permanent since the facility does not meet current state standards. It continually fails state inspections and operates because it has been grandfathered in.

“I think that is as close to a reality as we have ever been,” Sheriff Jeff Lawless said. “I will do everything I can do to keep that from happening. I can’t continue to do under these same circumstances. I can’t run with any less employees.”

Thursday Lawless again made his case to the Lawrence County Commissioners for additional appropriations in his 2012 budget and more money in his 2013 budgets. This was the third time since August that the sheriff has gone to the commission asking for more funds.

“I am in a desperate situation as I am in dire need of additional funds to pay for such things as gasoline for the deputies to be able to respond to calls from the public, and funds to pay for food to feed the prisoners as well as medicine for the prisoners,” Lawless wrote in a letter to the commission that he presented at its meeting.

Recently the state conducted its regular inspection of the jail and the inspector told Lawless that he was concerned about the lack of manpower now at the facility and lack of training for the staff.

“If the funding is not there, I may be forced to do things that are unpopular and hard to do,” Lawless said.

Two months ago a corrections officer and dispatcher at the sheriff’s office resigned and those positions have not been replaced. Two weeks ago, two part-time employees were laid off. Eight years ago there were 51 employees in the office. Today there are 42 full-time employees and one part-time.

In 2012, the sheriff’s office started with a total budget of $3,302,254 with $305,000 of that allotted for running the jail. On average the monthly food bill for inmates is approximately $14,000. Medications for prisoners averages $1,300 a month.

This summer jail inmate Ashley Seagraves, who is facing murder charges, gave birth to a son while in custody. The bill for that pregnancy was approximately $26,000 and the responsibility of the sheriff’s office. With inmates who have private insurance, the sheriff’s office can bill those policies. But government programs stop assistance to individuals once they are arrested.

Besides the Seagraves bill, the sheriff’s office owes $1,929 to a local pharmacy, $14,672 to two local food distributors and $1,644 to dry cleaners for uniforms.

Lawless must also find money to cover terms in the latest FOP contract. The contract provides for a 25-cents-on-the-hour raise and is backdated to Jan. 1, 2012.

“That is not money I have budgeted for,” he said. “An issue of a class action grievance settlement may have to be paid out on the way retirement is set aside.”

After the meeting Commissioner Bill Pratt said he wanted to see the revenue level for 2013 before making a decision about the sheriff’s budget for that year. The county is expecting $900,000 in casino funds for next year, but already the October allotment expected to be $128,000 was cut to $109,000.

“We can’t make any projection until we get an estimation on what the revenue will be,” he said. “We have this casino revenue but there is no real guarantee on it. We also have the sales tax but we think it will be better.”

As far as an appropriation this year for the sheriff’s office, Pratt wants to wait until the sales tax for this month comes in on Nov. 20.

“If it comes in favorably, then we will ask the budget commission to do an additional certification,” Pratt said. “If that doesn’t happen, it will be a very stressful situation through the end of the year.”

Commission President Les Boggs also wants to take a wait-and-see approach to the funding request.

“We have to take an evaluation of the financial condition based on what the next few weeks hold,” he said. “We will be able to determine what we can do to help the sheriff.”

Budget hearings for 2013 are expected to start in the next two week, Boggs said.

The Tribune believes it is possible for people with a variety of points of view to discuss issues in a civil manner and will remove comments that, in our opinion, foster incivility. We want to encourage an open exchange of information and ideas. Responsibility for what is posted or contributed to this site is the sole responsibility of each user. By contributing to this website, you agree not to post any defamatory, abusive, harassing, obscene, sexual, threatening or illegal material, or any other material that infringes on the ability of others to enjoy this site, or that infringes on the rights of others. Any user who feels that a contribution to this website is a violation of these terms of use is encouraged to email, or click the "report comment" link that is on all comments. We reserve the right to remove messages that violate these terms of use and we will make every effort to do so — within a reasonable time frame — if we determine that removal is necessary.

  • Poor Richard

    Law enforcement is much more than capturing the bad guys and whisking them off to jail. Criminal activity most often drives where citizens live, where citizens conduct business, shop, and start a new business or industry. In other words, criminal activity affects economics of a community and whether citizens decide to stick around because they feel safe. QUALITY OF LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There are multiple examples including Charleston WV. The wealthy and upper middle class no longer reside in the Charleston area but have moved to the bedroom community of Putnam County. Here they find citizens that have the same values, education, high regard for schools, etc. Cleveland Ohio has lost thousands of citizens getting out of the chaos. This also has been happening in our own region for a long time. What’s left behind are the smut heads and criminal scum we read about in the paper everyday.

    Funding law enforcement is just part of the solution. Assessing the bigger problem is another. One reason Lawrence County has so much scum is that criminals have moved from two other adjoining states to find new hunting grounds for their criminal activity. The criminals have been able to obtain housing from the slum lords of southern Ohio which is one huge problem (how they get into our communities). The fact that many are on welfare and do not work is another. So while everyone else is at work they are aggravating citizens or stealing. The overall list of the problems involved in criminal activity are far too lengthy to list in this comment but some issues require assistance from legislators, some from the state, some of the feds, and some from citizens.

    The bottom line for county commissioners is that decisions regarding law enforcement will affect EVERY ASPECT OF THIS COUNTY – INCLUDING THE ECONOMY.

    My family has already discussed leaving the area and the main reason is the redneck hillbilly criminals that infest and I do mean ‘infest’ southern Ohio. What we will take with us is a college educated family, two small businesses, and all the funding provided to charities in this area.

    So, county commissioners, before scratching your heads in wonderment of funding the sheriff, you may want to consider the extensive implications to the county if you do not.

    (Report comment)

  • Ozzy

    Dacryocystorhinostomy; I agree that this is ridiculous but as long as the American people continue to elect liberal democrats, we tax payers are going to be forced to pay for criminals and those who chose to live off the system.

    Every tax paying citizen is a victim of crime because we have to pay them for their crimes in the form of housing, food, clothes, medicine, healthcare, etc…

    Everyone wants to gripe about this but the majority of voters elect liberals who enact laws that force hard working people to spend their money on a criminal or lazy society.
    Now before the bleeding hearts attack me, I will say that I have no problem with helping those that cannot work but those who live off the system or rob and steal from us do not deserve my hard earned money.

    Contact your legislators and demand that they stop robbing our pay checks for criminals.

    (Report comment)

  • Dacryocystorhinostomy

    Paying for inmates’ meds? Ridiculous. Let’em pay for their own meds by whatever methods they were using before they were jailed. If they were on welfare before they got busted & their medicaid card quit funding them once they were busted, that’s just TUFF. Let the inmates eat the cost. Same for Seagraves.

    (Report comment)

  • Country

    Freddie Hayes radio commercials for the election said,”He was proud of having the EMS and Sheriff fully funded.” OH WELL

    $14,000 a month in food. Hopefully that is a misprint. Time for soup and peanut butter sandwiches.

    Something needs done to fund this better but the Fed and State Gov keeps wanting to push it on the local gov.

    (Report comment)

Editor's Picks

Tackling addiction

Spectrum Outreach plans recovery housing for addicts   The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services on Nov. 10 announced a $10 million investment ... Read more

Mrs. Ohio All-Star makes impact

SOUTH POINT — Angela McKeone, of South Point, is one of a kind. She recently won the title of Mrs. Ohio All-Star. “I recognized when ... Read more

Some RH teachers will have access to guns

PEDRO — Rock Hill Schools Superintendent Wes Hairston admits it wasn’t one of the easier or more popular choices he has made. “It was a ... Read more

Making his dreams a reality

Mickey Fisher speaks to Ironton High School   His message was simple: Before he was an actor, a filmmaker or a big-time Hollywood screenwriter, Mickey ... Read more