More needed before jail move can happen

Published 11:53 am Friday, November 7, 2014

Moving the jail to the former Franklin Furnace juvenile center was viewed by the county commissioners as the best option for the county to meet inmate standards.

The Lawrence jail has come under repeated fire for not meeting Ohio requirements. That is when the state offered the commissioners a 100-bed unit of the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in neighboring Scioto County to use.

But that didn’t mean the ORVJC was turnkey perfect. That reality was brought home to the commission Thursday after Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless gave his laundry list of mandated changes that must be made before the county can move in.

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Now the question is how much more than the estimated cost of $1.3 million for the move will that be.

“It is the time to roll up our sleeves and get busy on this jail,” Lawless said at the regular commission meeting. “The jail is going to cost a lot of money and we have to figure out how much it is going to take to make it work.”

The first item on Lawless’ list is to determine which door to the center can be the entry door for inmates. From that a booking area must be created.

“That is going to require desks, computers, a fingerprint machine,” the sheriff said. “There will be a cost just to get a booking area. I could reach out to get a price quote.”

Next would be creating a visitation area suitable for adult inmates. When the facility housed juveniles, the youth were taken to a separate building on the campus where they could sit down next to their parents. That won’t work for adult prisoners.

“We would have to have them separated by some type of partition,” Lawless said. “That is another big expense we will be facing.”

Originally the auditor’s office projected moving to Franklin Furnace would cost the additional $1.3 million over the current jail budget of $1.5 million. In that estimate were listed salaries, retirement and insurance costs for 39 employees, transportation costs for prisoners, utilities, food and medication.

“This was the minimum cost just to get the doors open. There are no specifics added for remodeling,” Chris Kline, chief deputy auditor, said. “It was my understanding that the state would take care of that.”

Other mandated renovations to the juvenile facility would include providing an attorney-client meeting room with a desk; picnic tables for inmate meals at a cost of $1,000 for a table for eight; a telephone system in each cell block; inmate clothing lockers for $6,800 each and television sets with cable TV.

“I have to provide them with a news channel by Ohio law,” Lawless said.

The move will also mean more staffing. Lawless originally estimated 39 employees, but has reduced that to 31. Just to outfit each officer will cost $1,200.

“How many people can I have and when can I start hiring,” the sheriff asked. “We are at a point where we have to sit down. Where is the money? I can’t work with what I have got. I don’t think we should pit one against the other. How do you get from Point A to Point B without anyone being the bad guy?”

At that point Boggs questioned the sheriff about these additional costs.

“This is the first I am hearing of this,” he said. “We certainly need to get together soon.”

When asked after the meeting for a reaction to Boggs’ comment, Lawless said, “Since the onset of doing this, I have made the commissioners aware of a lot of underlying costs that it will take to get this jail in operation.”

Part of the state’s offer of the ORVJC was to allow nearby STAR Community Justice Center to use the rest of the building for its rehabilitation operation. Boggs has maintained that sharing services with STAR could reduce the cost of the move by approximately half a million.

Another potential cost-saving measure has been suggested by the state where employees at the jail would work 12-hour shifts instead of the current 10-hour days.

“In one of out meetings with the state, if we could go to 12 hours, we wouldn’t need to hire as many people,” Lawless said. “It appears from conversations with union leaders, they are willing to cooperate on these adjustments.”

In other action the commissioners:

• Awarded the bid to repair the courthouse annex roof to Fairfax Inc. of Chesapeake for $18,740;

• Approved demolition contracts with Solid Rock Construction to raze 210 Depot St., 229 St. Charles St. and 7397 County Road 1;

• Transferred Albert Hager from part-time to full-time EMT.