Jail feasibility study gets committee nod

Published 10:34 am Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Seeking $50,000 in grant money to develop a feasibility study of a new Lawrence County Jail has been OK’d by the ad hoc jail committee.

The committee met Tuesday to discuss more how the county could get a new facility, rather than whether it needs a jail to replace the outdated one that currently violates multiple state standards.

Lawrence County Commission President Les Boggs, who chaired the meeting, said he had first talked to Gov. John Kasich in November about the situation.

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“We need a new jail,” he told the governor.

He was then directed to two state corrections officials, who said they would try to see if funding is available.

“If we don’t get anything, it is not because we haven’t been asking,” Boggs told the committee that is comprised of the commissioners and concerned citizens.

While the jail has failed previous inspections for a number of reasons, one of the main objections is its size and its inability to provide the state-mandated square footage for inmates. Following that mandate means the jail should only house 16 inmates, instead of its on-average range of between 70 to 100 prisoners.

“Columbus knows our needs,” Sheriff Jeff Lawless said. “It only takes money to fix this problem and that is what we don’t have.”

Commissioner Bill Pratt had first proposed coming up with a feasibility study to determine exactly the needs of the county as far as a new facility is concerned.

The committee recommended seeking a Local Government Innovative Fund grant for the study that could provide up to $50,000 of its cost.

“It is there,” Ralph Kline of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said. “It is available.” “(The study could determine) what is the cost and the operational costs. What is the business plan behind it.”

The grants are awarded quarterly with the next deadline March 10.

“This shows a good faith effort,” Pratt said. “If they ask, what is your actual plan, we will have this in place.”

The committee also recommended accepting the bid of $59,975 from Williams Electric to redo lighting in the jail and sheriff’s office.

“This is something that is needed for our facility,” Lawless said. “This bid is a lot lower than one several months ago.”

Recently the county has spent approximately $114,300 on the jail including $25,000 to repair a wall; and $69,300 for a new roof.

Both recommendations will go before the commission for approval.