State wants to meet on jail move

Published 10:06 am Friday, August 8, 2014

A meeting set for later this month could start the move of the county jail to Franklin Furnace.

Scott Neely, a legislative liaison for the state department of rehabilitation and corrections, contacted the Lawrence County Commissioners that state officials want to meet with them, Sheriff Jeff Lawless, Scioto County Commissioners, Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini and Scioto County Common Pleas Judge Howard Harcha III.

The meeting is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 21 at the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility at Franklin Furnace. That is the site the state has offered to Lawrence County for its new jail and to nearby STAR Community Justice Center for its sought after expansion. For several years the county jail has been plagued with overcrowding repeatedly failing to meet state standards as far as space requirements for inmates.

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Recently, the state said the jail could only house 24 inmates. However, the facility’s census usually ranges from 70 to 100 prisoners at a time, putting the jail in noncompliance with the threat of a state shutdown possible.

The state has offered the county a lease of $1 a year for 15 years and has promised to make major structural improvements at the facility before the two agencies make the move.

The meeting was announced at Thursday’s regular commission meeting by Commissioner Bill Pratt.

The agenda includes “the timeline, what shared services, a construction update, department of youth services’ construction timeline and an update from Lawrence County and STAR,” Pratt said. “The next stop on our jail transition.”

As the county works toward relocating its jail, Commission President Les Boggs wants to explore building a new facility in the county and is setting up a jail committee focusing on costs and possible sites. Although he has yet to announce the committee’s makeup, Boggs wants it to have its first meeting this month.

Also invited to the meeting are Chris Galli of Department of Administrative Services, Eddie Philabaun of STAR, Linda Jaynes, Marcey Early and David Blackburn of the Department of Youth Services, Steve Young, John Adams and Mark Herubin of DAS, Rob Jeffreys, Marie Scott, Deb Herubin, Rep. Terry Johnson, R-90, Rep Ryan Smith, R-93, State Sen. Bob Peterson, R-17, and Sheriff Michael E. Heldman of Ohio Jail Advisory Board.

Lawless told the commissioners that he had been contacted by the Teamsters union that represents part of his staff.

“Any meeting we attend affects the union and they want to be involved in it,” Lawless said. “Should I invite the union?”

The sheriff was advised to check with Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson.

Before the commission approved the jail relocation, the Ohio General Assembly passed within its budget bill an amendment giving Lawless authority within the confines of the county’s ORVJC unit even though it is in Scioto County and Anderson authority to prosecute any infractions inside the unit.

“Scioto County has retained outside counsel on the legality of the bill,” Boggs said about concerns Scioto County commissioners and sheriff have about Lawrence’s move into their county.

“This is not an issue of stepping on their toes,” Lawless said. “But here is a facility paid for with tax dollars. I hope they will understand where we are. It would increase their tax base. Hopefully this meeting will put to rest this issue.”

Also at the meeting Lawless presented the commissioners with a partial cost list for equipment needed at the sheriff’s office totaling close to $130,000.

The list includes replacing the server and 12 work station computers for a cost of $28,411; 37 ballistic vests for $24,500; 74 uniforms at $8,880; rain coats at $5,550; training at $30,000; and office furniture at $1,900.

The commission took the list under review.

Also during the meeting a representative from K2M, a Cleveland-based architectural firm with a specialty of designing correctional facilities, spoke to the commission. The firm offered its services at the Franklin Furnace meeting or in the designing of a new jail.

In other action the commission:

• Approved a revised sick leave policy;

• Approved a right of way permit for Aqua Ohio Water to enter County Road 144 to install an automatic flushing station;

• Appointed PNC branch manager Cindy Roth to the Southern Ohio Agriculture and Community Development Foundation.