Meeting scheduled on possible jail move

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A special meeting between the county commission and state officials concerning possibly moving the Lawrence County Jail to Franklin Furnace in Scioto County has been scheduled for Thursday.

The meeting was announced by Commission President Les Boggs at this past Thursday’s regular session. Boggs said it was concerning real estate and probably would be conducted in executive session, not in an open forum.

State Rep. Ryan Smith, R-93, and Commissioner Bill Pratt confirmed it was about the potential move to the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility. Smith is organizing the meeting.

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“We have had so many different discussions about the ORVJC,” he said. “I am trying to bring it all together. This is to make sure I am on the same page.”

Smith said he wanted Gary Mohr, director of the state department of corrections and rehabilitation, to attend. But he did not have a confirmation.

An executive session is allowed by a public body “to consider the purchase of property for public purposes or for the sale of property at competitive bidding, if premature disclosure of information would give an unfair competitive or bargaining advantage to a person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the general public interest,” according to the Ohio Revised Code.

When asked why the meeting could not be held in public, Smith said, “That’s not up to me. It is the commissioners and what they want to do.”

Investigating a possible move to Franklin Furnace was conducted by the ad hoc jail committee, chaired by Pratt, who has publicly said he supports transferring the jail to the ORVJC.

Because he is on vacation, Pratt will not attend Thursday’s meeting. He said he hopes the other two commissioners can come to a conclusion on the matter.

“Whatever they decide, I would be able to support,” he said. “I would like to see (the ORVJC move) happen. But I think it should be a unanimous decision. It is such a big decision but it is not going to do any good if it is a fractious decision. But I think we would be better off to make the move.”

Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. has said he supports the move to Franklin Furnace if the county can afford the move.

“I just think we all need to get together and discuss it,” he said. “I don’t want to put the county in any hardship.”

Boggs called the possible move a multi-faceted, convoluted issue.

“I have assessed the situation and am kind of waiting for this meeting on Thursday before rendering my decision,” he said. “I don’t think like a judge, prosecutor or sheriff, but like a commissioner. My job is to determine whether we can afford it or whether we can afford not to do it.”

Also invited to the meeting to be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at commissioner chambers is County Auditor Jason Stephens.

“I will be there to provide numbers so an informed decision can be made by the commissioners,” Stephens said.