Estimate for lighting project higher than expected

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Trying to bring the Lawrence County Jail up to state standards, even in small steps, got temporarily derailed after an estimate to upgrade lighting came in $33,000 more than what county officials thought it would be.

An estimate from McDaniel Electric Co. in Huntington, W.Va., to improve lighting in the cellblocks of the jail, including the ability to dim ceiling fixtures at night, was $83,000.

“That is extremely high for an old building to bring it back into compliance,” Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless told the county’s Jail Resolution Committee, at its Tuesday meeting. “And that is not a solid estimate. It depends on what they find.”

Email newsletter signup

Lighting was one of several issues that state corrections officials recommended be resolved after the jail again failed to pass a state inspection earlier this year. The main complaints are overcrowding, the lack of a jail administrator, lighting and an insufficient number of corrections officers per shift.

Lawrence County Commission President Bill Pratt had suggested investing $50,000 into small projects at the jail to begin to bring it into compliance with lighting at the top of that short list.

But since the estimate came in over the $50,000 threshold, the job will have to be bid out. Commission Administrator Tami Meade has sent out proposals to four electrical contractors in the Tri-State.

The ad hoc jail committee was formed to develop solutions to the jail’s continually deteriorating situation, whether it be a way to build a new facility or find another alternative.

Next Thursday officials from Lawrence County will join their counterparts from Scioto, Adams and Pike counties to tour the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace at the request of state officials in hopes it could offer a solution. The state shut down the center in 2011 as a cost-cutting measure and it has remained closed since then.

Pratt would like the state department of corrections to take over the former youth facility and lease out space to Lawrence County for adult prisoners.

“What is acceptable to us if they offer a proposal after we tour the facility?” he asked the committee.

As long as the county wasn’t financing the operation of two facilities, a per inmate cost of between $45-to-$55 a day would be feasible, Lawless said.

“If it went over $55 it would put the county in a real bind,” he said. “As long as they keep it below $55.”

Leasing space at the Franklin Furnace facility would also include closing down the current jail, the sheriff said.

On Tuesday the census was 68 inmates at the Fifth Street facility with 15 more housed at out-of-county jails — 10 at Scioto County at $48 a day and five at Morrow County at $55 a day. Lawless is negotiating with Mahoning County to provide housing for female inmates. Right now, Mahoning’s offer is $60 a day with a minimum of 10 beds.

According to current state spacing standards, the jail should only house 16 inmates. However, the state told Lawless he could apply for a variance to allow 58 prisoners at the jail, the same as the number beds there.

At the meeting Lawless said he applied for the variance and when checking on it was told his application had not been received. He then sent a second application certified and has yet to hear from the state.