County needs help from state

Published 12:52 am Sunday, May 18, 2014

As the state’s deadline for a decision from Lawrence County officials on moving the county jail to the unoccupied Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional facility has come and gone, the state is now considering a lease offer that would greatly benefit the county.

Pushing back the deadline was the right call.

If agreed upon, the state would maintain ownership of the facility, maintain the facility and cover the cost of utilities.

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So far, this is the best-case scenario for Lawrence County.

The money for a brand new $11 million facility is just not there.

Since the current jail can only house 27 inmates — a number allowed by a variance — shipping all other inmates to other jails also comes with a hefty price tag of more than $1.1 million.

The former ORVC facility is the best option for keeping Lawrence County out of serious legal trouble if inmates are not moved out of the current jail.

Housing three and four times the amount of inmates as allowed based on the size of the jail is going to result in lawsuits and at the very least, the state will shut the jail down.

It is not a matter or ‘”if” anymore, but “when.”

County officials have met with state leaders multiple times and have struggled to come up with a deal that is affordable and won’t empty the county’s coffers. The juvenile center has been toured and the sheriff and state officials have presented staffing options and the numbers have been presented.

If state leaders want Lawrence County to have a suitable jail, they need to help foot the bill rather than give a “take it or leave it” option.

We sincerely hope state leaders will support this lease agreement. Otherwise, accepting the ORVJC would be like the county taking a gift if just can’t afford.