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Staffing needs under review for proposed jail venture

Coming up with a staffing plan is the next step in the efforts to turn the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility into the new Lawrence County Jail.

The newly created ad hoc action team led by Commissioner Bill Pratt was charged with coming up with a plan for the proposed transformation by June. However, the state, which owns the Franklin Furnace facility, wants the county’s proposal by mid-May.

“I think we can as long as we have the numbers,” Pratt said. “Their fiscal year ends June 30 and they want to have things in place as far as what capital expenditures are.”

For some time the county jail has been dealing with overcrowding. Two years ago it failed a state inspection that declared because of new square footage requirements for inmates, the facility should only house 16 prisoners. Recently the state did give the jail a variance to allow a maximum of 27 prisoners. Typically census runs from 70 to 100 inmates.

Last month state officials came to Ironton to meet in a special session with the commissioners offering the ORVJC as a possible solution to the jail problem. The proposal would have the county using a 100-bed wet cell unit with the remainder of the facility taken over by neighboring STAR Community Justice Center. STAR, which is a rehabilitation center for nonviolent felons as an alternative to prison, wants to expand from a 140 to a 200-plus bed facility.

On Tuesday, Pratt and Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless met with Dave Blackburn of the Department of Youth Services that oversees the property.

“(Blackburn) brought with him a maintenance expert who knows all the DYS facilities,” Pratt said. “He checked all the water lines, checked the roofs and air conditioning units to see what shape it was in and what might need to be done. He found a couple of roof leaks and only one toilet that didn’t work.”

The state has offered to make improvements requested by the county, including repairs and a fence to separate the jail from STAR.

“They have the money,” Pratt said. “They are saying ‘If you don’t ask, it is your own fault.’”

Right now the sheriff is coming up with the number of corrections officers he believes the facility would required Pratt said.

“If they used all four pods, there would be at least two people staffing those at all times and one person who roved around,” the commissioner said. “The maximum would be five for an eight-hour shift.”

Once those figures are in place, the action team will meet with the county auditor’s office to determine actual costs for using the ORVJC. Another meeting of the team is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the auditor’s office.

“Hopefully, Jeff can have those numbers then,” Pratt said.