County Commission addresses Chamber of Commerce leaders

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, February 28, 2009

PROCTORVILLE — It was the state of Lawrence County that was on the table as the Chamber of Commerce met for its 4th Friday Luncheon.

County Commissioners Les Boggs and Jason Stephens were the guest speakers at the meeting at Ohio University Proctorville and gave their views on the health of the county in the midst of the economic turmoil that has swept the country.

“We are struggling financially. We have to make some tough decisions and we will make them,” Boggs said, who predicted a significant upturn in the next three to four years.

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Stephens commended those at the luncheon for their after-hours contributions to the county.

“In Lawrence County, we have as strong as ever community involvement,” Stephens said. “The county can’t do it all. The reason we are struggling is people just break the law.”

Stephens then cited a significant increase in the Lawrence County Jail population over the past eight years and the subsequent costs of housing and processing inmates and the indigent legal fund. That can take up from 25 to 30 percent of the commission’s budget, Boggs said.

Those costs have a multiplier effect on the budget, Stephens said.

The men were asked if the Star facility near Franklin Furnace helped with the overpopulation costs at the county jail.

“It has helped more in rehabilitation than financially,” Boggs said.

The pair also told the chamber that, right now, the county has not been given a specific figure as far as what stimulus money will be coming locally.

However, historically the size of the county has had an influence on the amount of money Lawrence gets.

“We do get less because we are smaller,” Boggs said. “As far as getting extra money, that is one way we are adversely affected. … there are really tough days ahead for county government, but it will get better.”

Chesapeake Mayor Dick Gilpin reaffirmed a need to maintain an optimistic attitude during this downturn.

“It will give people some hope, if we can somehow let residents know we are still in business,” Gilpin told the group.

Also at the meeting Charlene Farrell of Hospice of Huntington said that the West Virginia agency wants to organize a Lawrence County Advisory Committee that would have oversight input over the local section of the Hospice.

Currently Hospice of Huntington serves 164 families in Lawrence County. Anyone wanting to join the committee may call Farrell at (800) 788-5480.