Governor: ORV will close

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

FRANKLIN FURNACE — Despite efforts to the contrary, the Ohio River Valley Youth Correctional Facility will close in September as announced earlier this year.

Rep. Terry Johnson announced Tuesday night that following a meeting Monday between Ohio Governor John Kasich and ORV employees and another meeting between local leaders and representatives from Department of Youth Services, the facility will still close. Kasich had agreed to review information presented to him by local officials.

“Governor Kasich has made his decision. It is not what we had wanted to hear.” Johnson said in a prepared statement. “I am disappointed and heartbroken for the employees and families impacted. I still do not feel that ORV should be closed. However, I will now focus my efforts on ensuring the facility is used for some other purpose that will continue to provide jobs for our area.”

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A representative from Kasich’s office relayed the governor’s final decision to Johnson, he said.

The Department of Youth Services announced in March its plans to close the facility in September due to budget cuts. Kasich’s budget calls for a $41 million reduction in funding for the department over the next two years. The need for those cuts are the result of the $8 billion deficit the governor inherited. Closing the facility will save more than $20 million a year, department officials said.

Declining population is another reason that’s been offered for the center’s proposed closure.

The first meeting Monday was among members of the governor’s staff and the Department of Youth Services (DYS) leadership. Scioto County Commission President Skip Riffe, Lawrence County Commission President Les Boggs and Commissioner Bill Pratt, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship, and several ORV employees attended the first meeting along with Johnson.

The second meeting with Kasich followed with only Johnson and ORV employees Daryl Winn and Joel Patrick attending to oppose the closure. Also attending the meeting were Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Director Gary Mohr and DYS Director Harvey Reed.

Boggs said he heard about the governor’s decision around 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“My heart goes out to all those people who are losing their jobs,” he said. “But at least they got a final answer… I’m really saddened by the final outcome.”

Boggs thanked Johnson, Blankenship and Pratt for their efforts in trying to keep the facility open.

Johnson thanked ORV staff members for their efforts.

“No one could have presented their case more effectively,” Johnson said. “Their words were compelling because ORV is the best facility in the DYS inventory and they know it. Ohio lost a great resource today.”

Blankenship is expected to make a statement at a press conference about the closure Wednesday afternoon.

DYS spokeswoman Kim Parsell was reached Wednesday morning.

“We respect the efforts of the staff at ORV, their dedication to changing the lives of youth and the desire to keep the facility open,” Parsell said. “Closures are difficult and this was a business decision. Our human resources staff will continue to answer questions, address concerns and provide resources to ORV staff throughout the closure process.”

A call to Kasich’s office was not returned by press time.

Beth Barnett and her husband, Larry, have been long-time employees at the center. Barnett is the youth advocate administrator and her husband is a corrections officer.

“I would want to thank Les Boggs, Mayor Blankenship, Terry Johnson and Scioto County Commissioners and the Lawrence County Commissioners and the staff members here who met with the governor and tried so hard to keep us open,” Barnett said. “It shows what the people of southern Ohio are all about. We stand for one another and try to help each other in times of need.”

As far as severance packages, Barnett said, “We will get what we earned. Vacation time, personal leave, things we have accumulated. Sick leave 50 percent of what we have earned.

“Some people who live close to Circleville and are union can transfer there. People who are exempt personnel, that is not an option. Some of the administrative staff have been offered positions, but for myself I would have to move. I am not leaving the county.”

Currently, the census at the center stands at 70, Barnett said.

“At one time we housed about 300 youth,” she said.