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Pratt to chair new jail action team

Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt will head up the newly proposed action team to determine how to resolve the problem of overcrowding at the county jail, including the option of using the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility.

The choice of Pratt for chairman was made during the Lawrence County Commissioners’ Thursday meeting.

Forming the action team came out of a specially called meeting on Wednesday of the county’s jail committee formed last year to find solutions to the jail problem

At that meeting representatives from the state department of corrections suggested the possibility of using a 100-bed wet cell unit from the ORVJC with neighboring STAR Community Justice Center moving its operation into another section of the juvenile center. STAR officials want to expand from a 140-to- 200 plus bed facility.

However one of the first things the action team will have to determine is if the state intends to accept one of the bids recently made for the Franklin Furnace facility, Pratt said. This is the second time the state has tried to sell the center that was shut down about three years ago. There were three bids received in February.

“If that doesn’t happen and they allow us to use it, what portion should we have,” Pratt said.

The commissioner also wants the county’s prosecuting attorney to determine if a lease option is possible with the state on the center.

“There is some indication Scioto County may have a lease on the property and lease it to the state,” he said.

The team will have local and state components. Possible members include Sheriff Jeff Lawless or a representative, Eddie Philabaun from STAR or a representative, representatives from the Department of Youth Services and Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship, representative from the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office, Sen. Bob Peterson, Rep Terry Johnson and a representative from the county auditor’s office.

“No. 1 this is not critical of the way the jail is operated, only the facility belongs to the commission,” Commission President Les Boggs said. “It is not up to where it should be and that is an understatement. We want to be part of the solution.”

In other action the commissioners:

• Approved and signed a tower lease agreement between the Lawrence County Sheriff and Perry and Kelly Brock of South Point for $900 a quarter;

• Signed a partnership agreement with Ohio Department of Transportation to replace in 2015 bridges on County Road 13, County Road 6 and County Road 4.