Grant to help Boll home

Published 11:32 am Friday, September 19, 2008

Lawrence County is getting $500,000 to either renovate or replace the aging Dennis J. Boll Group And Shelter Home.

In a letter to Lawrence County Juvenile Court Judge David Payne dated Sept. 5, Thomas J. Stickrath, director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services, said the capital improvements funding was part of legislation approved recently by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ted Strickland. The juvenile court oversees the operation of the group home.

“The department will work closely with you and your staff during the planning and design of your detention facility project,” Stickrath said.

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Payne said he is pleased to get the money from the DYS.

“It’s encouraging to get this money and yet there are still a lot of hurdles to be overcome to see the facility improved,” Payne said.

His sentiments were echoed by Brett Looney, group home director. Looney said he is pleased to have received the state funding, but he cautioned that given the cost of construction and the age of the existing building, $500,000 “is not going to get the project done.”

When the detention facility in Scioto County was built in 2000, it cost $2 million. Construction costs have escalated since then.

Both Payne and Looney emphasized the service the group home provides to the county and its children.

As to whether the county should repair or replace, Looney said in his opinion, “It is questionable whether it can be brought up to modern codes.”

He said he hopes the Lawrence County Commission, which actually owns the facility, will also contribute money for the project.

Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said county officials must now weigh both options before making any decisions about the future of the group home.

“We’ll be putting some deliberation into this,” Stephens said. “This is something that will affect the county for decades. We need to study and evaluate the pros and cons (of each option).”

The building that houses the group home is approximately 150 years old. It houses an average of 18 young people between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been deemed to be delinquent.

The average stay is 30 days though Looney said some youths stay as long as six months.