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Jail lease on commission agenda

By Thursday the county should know if its jail will now be located in Franklin Furnace at the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility.

That’s because the final version of the lease between the county and the state to take over a 100-bed unit at the ORV will be on the Thursday agenda of the county commission, according to commission president Les Boggs.

Almost a year ago the state offered the county part of the ORV for its jail after that facility had repeatedly failed state inspections, including providing the requisite amount of space for inmates. The remainder of the ORV will be used by STAR Community Justice Center for its expansion.

At the county jail overcrowding forces a large percentage of the prisoners to sleep on mats on the floor. The jail is in non-compliance because it houses more than 27 prisoners, but the state has yet to enforce that ruling allowing the census to range from 70 to 100 per day.

There will apparently be at least one member of the commission voting in favor of the move.

Boggs said on Tuesday “the best solution is to go to the ORV, until we build a jail in Lawrence County.”

Currently Boggs chairs an ad hoc committee to find funding to build a new jail by 2020.

The commission was to review the lease with county prosecuting attorney Brigham Anderson on Tuesday in special session, but only Boggs was at the meeting.

Commissioners Freddie Hayes Jr. and Bill Pratt were unable to attend because of separate medical emergencies.

Instead Boggs met with Anderson and sheriff Jeff Lawless in the prosecutor’s office to review the latest version of the lease Anderson has been negotiating with the state.

Lawless and the county auditor’s office have determined that it will take approximately $1.3 million annually to operate the jail at the ORV. However, Boggs contends that figure can be cut to $900,000 because of shared services and changes in staff shifts.

More than half of that $900,000 is to come from the half-million dollars two members of the budget commission earmarked from the carryover for the 2015 budget for the jail move. However, county auditor Jason Stephens has said he will not approve changing the certification for the budget to allow that expenditure with the current revenue figures.

“We might want to do it in phases,” Boggs said. “Keep 27 (inmates) here (in the current jail) and some down there, a little bit of the time.”