Finding the money: Boggs wants ideas on how to pay for new jail

Published 10:04 am Friday, January 23, 2015

Coming up with a specified way to fund building a county jail is the next step in the process, according to jail committee chair Les Boggs.

That was what Boggs, also county commission president, called homework for the committee at a Thursday meeting. The committee will meet on April 9 to discuss ideas.

This ad hoc committee was created by Boggs in September to explore building a jail in Lawrence County to replace the aging facility that has repeatedly failed to meet state correctional standards. A previous jail committee headed by commissioner Bill Pratt reviewed the option to move temporarily the jail to the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace. The commission approved the move, but debate continues on how to finance it.

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This was the third meeting for the committee that has as its goal to erect a jail in Lawrence County by 2020.

“Last time we asked the auditor to come up and talk to us about our bonding capacity,” Boggs said. “If we say we want to build a new jail in five or six years, that doesn’t mean there would be any money. My thinking is we have a dedicated stream of revenue. I am not saying what that dedicated source is or how it will come about.”

Boggs estimated a jail could cost approximately $11 million to build that would meet state standards for inmate living space and dining and recreational requirements.

“We might be able to put away $200,000 a year and eventually for five years that would be $1 million,” he said. “It is a drop in the bucket.”

In August of 2013, a proposal to put two levies on that November ballot that would fund emergency services did not get past the county commission.

The levies were part of the Lawrence County Public Safety Funding Plan that had been developed by Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless, EMS Director Buddy Fry and Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens. A 2-mill levy would fund the EMS by $1.6 million a year with a 1.25-mill levy for 911 dispatching bringing in $1 million annually.

Before a levy can go on a ballot, it must be approved by the commission.

Commissioner Bill Pratt made the motion to allow voters to decide on the levies, but the motion died for lack of a second that would have had to come from Boggs. Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. was absent from the meeting.

“I think that it is going to be vitally important to know where the money is going to come from,” Lawless said. “We don’t know how to fund operating the ORV. Currently there are no grants out there. If grants come available, they usually need matching funds. If we don’t have a dedicated source to build a new jail, we are spinning our wheels.”