Officials must work together

Published 12:38 am Sunday, November 30, 2014

It has been nearly five months since Lawrence County’s three commissioners finally voted in favor of moving the county jail to the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace.

While that decision certainly seemed to be the best available at the time, county officials are no more prepared for the move now than they were back in July.

State officials offered the county the use of the former juvenile facility to correct the problem of the current jail being in noncompliance on a number of issues, mainly, that the jail routinely houses more than three or four times the number of inmates that are allowed by law.

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At the first of the year it looks as if the state could make good on its promise to enforce the 27-inmate policy.

But county officials are still searching under the proverbial couch cushions to find the $1.3 million they lack to make a successful transfer.

Understandably, sheriff Jeff Lawless has asked the commissioners to give him a straight answer: Will the move be funded?

And it seems commissioners are no longer on the same page as to how much money is actually needed. Bill Pratt said he is for raising the sheriff’s budget by $150,000 to $200,000, but making the move with current staffing levels, which the sheriff has publicly said isn’t in the best interest of safety.

Freddie Hayes Jr. is pushing to get a $250,000 check from the sale of Sherman Thompson Towers cleared for use for the move, as well as trying to get the budget commission to certify $600,000 more for the county’s budget.

The county has already promised the state that the move will happen and the current jail will fall under the occupancy limit.

There is one month left in the year and moving an entire jail facility and all its inmates is not going to happen over night. County officials must get their ducks in a row and help the sheriff pull off a successful transfer.

They made this decision together and now they must stand by it.