• 59°

County will wait to build new jail

Lawrence County Jail authorities will keep their outdated lockup at least another four to seven years.

Sunday, October 24, 1999

Lawrence County Jail authorities will keep their outdated lockup at least another four to seven years.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction officials told commissioners Thursday that timeframe seemed most realistic for the county’s plan to replace the downtown jail.

"If you’re going to build a jail, we have a planning and approval process you have to go through," said Deb Stewart, administrative assistant for ODRC’s Bureau of Adult Detention.

Designing and planning the jail, under the state’s guidelines, will probably take about two years, Mrs. Stewart said.

"Basically it’s a step-by-step process, including staff requirements, operating costs," she said. "The county is required to submit the plans and we review."

Then, building the jail could take another two to five years, Mrs. Stewart said.

And, throughout the entire process, the county should have a planner/architect on board to advise commissioners at each stage of construction, she said.

Commission president Bruce Trent said the meeting has set a direction for the county.

"We have in the past realized this as a need for Lawrence County," Trent said. "We have an option on certain property within the city (in the same block as the current jail) for purposes of building a jail."

The county will rely on a prototype jail design, developed by corrections officials, to keep going, he said.

That design is free and easily adaptable to a county’s needs, and will be available within weeks, Ms. Stewart said.

Sheriff Roy Smith said he would like to see a 200-bed facility, with prisoner "pods" to ease the staffing burden.

There is no question the current one was outdated just after it opened, and the prototype design can help the county meet state standards with minimal redesign, Smith said.

The prototype design assumes a $50,000 to $55,000 average cost per bed for new jail construction, which includes design and other costs, Ms. Stewart said.

There is a possibility of a $24,000-per-bed state funding share, she said.

Officials detailed at least two grant programs, one federal and one state. Only about $1 million is available to Ohio applicants for the federal grant. The state has not finalized budget figures for the biennium and so no figures are ready for the state grant program.

Taking the state’s advice, the county will consider forming a Criminal Justice Advisory Committee to discuss new construction issues and grants.

Corrections officials also volunteered to conduct a one-day workshop for local officials and the public on why a new jail is needed, why an architect is necessary and the expense of a new jail.

Commissioner George Patterson thanked corrections officials for discussing the finances of new jails and listing grant opportunities.

"At least we’re off," he said. "We’re not running, but we’re off."

County resident Phil Kline, who attended the meeting, said a new jail would be a positive step for the county.

"But from what I’ve seen and my experience so far, with a new jail, unless you’ve got people who want to take care of the facility and don’t want to jerk prisoners around, you’re better off to leave it like it is and improve it," Kline said.