Could building help jail woes?

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It used to be a building for mail to go out, but we wonder if it could become a place for criminals to come in.

As the Ironton City Schools prepare to put several of its buildings up for auction, we hope they will take the time to sit down with Lawrence County officials to talk about the current board of education office on Fifth Street.

We feel this building could have a viable use for the county and would like to see these options explored before the former post office building is sold to the highest bidder.

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Could it be renovated to become a jail annex? Could it house the sheriff’s offices administrators, freeing up space in the current jail building that could be converted into more cells? Would it be more feasible to tear down the building and build an expansion to the current jail?

Right now, no one likely knows those answers but all those are questions that we would like to see answered before this building gets sold.

All these would be challenging propositions because of the regulations that go with operating a jail and current requirements for a facility, many of which the current facility does not have to meet because it was built before those were enacted.

The school district could easily decide it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to simply lease that building to the county, for say $1 a month.

Of course some will say the district could really use the money that would come from the sale of the building valued at as much as $350,000 but we challenge those people to look at the financial challenges the county is facing.

Crime and punishment is costing the county far more than it did five years ago with out-of-county jail housing expenses likely to exceed $300,000 this year.

The county needs help providing its most basic services. That means the taxpayers essentially need help, the same taxpayers who stepped up and made the new Ironton schools possible in the first place.

The school district could borrow from the building’s prior use and truly deliver at a time when it is greatly needed.