County must look to bad times during good

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2005

In life, a good philosophy to live by is to plan for bad times during the good times. This couldn't be more important when it comes to operating a government.

Right now, things are going well in Lawrence County - on the surface - but that means there may never be a better time to start thinking about the future.

The county has long warned of budget problems but may be able to dodge a bullet this year. What about next year and the year after that? Now is the perfect time to look at all of the county's operations to see what areas could be trimmed and maybe what areas need to be improved upon.

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One obvious area that needs some attention is the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office and the Lawrence County Jail. The office has barely enough staff to adequately cover the entire county. Many people who live in the more rural regions would argue that the sheriff's office must not have enough people at all because response times can often be lengthy.

The jail issue continues to grow - literally - as more and more criminals are arrested. The 31-year-old facility was built to house 52 inmates and modified to accommodate a few more.

The problem is that there may be as many as 70 inmates incarcerated at any given time. Law enforcement officers are sometimes left with the tough decision of deciding whether or not to arrest someone, knowing that the already full jail can hardly hold another person.

Maybe the county can't afford to build a new jail, but some number crunching and penny pinching may allow for some modifications or expansion that would alleviate these problems.

Many other areas within the county also could use some extra funds to improve the overall quality of life here. Couldn't we invest more in infrastructure improvements? Could the county and City of Ironton work together to develop some its riverfront property? Could the services and business hours at the courthouse be expanded to accommodate those who can't make it from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. - or whatever time the offices decide to close on any given day?

Many of these areas could use some study - and ultimately, some additional funding. But where would the money come from? It could come from trimming areas and combining services. We don't know because no one has ever really looked.

Could 911, the Emergency Management offices and the sheriff's dispatching be consolidated? Could the City of Ironton figure into that deal? Could security at the courthouse be lessened? Some have said it is harder to enter our courthouse than it is the statehouse in Columbus.

Other areas that need to be examined are the prosecutor's office and the army of assistant prosecutors, the necessity of having a county and city health department - in the same building no less - and whether or not SEOEMS is the right answer.

We don't know the answers to many of these questions. Maybe all these areas are fine the way they are.

But the important fact is that we know there are questions. Taxpayers deserve to know the answers.