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Where’s the money?

County auditor asks where funds will come from to move jail

 

The lease may be approved, but the funding to make the move still isn’t there, says Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens.

On Thursday the county commission signed the lease between the county and state for the county jail to move down to the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Scioto County. A year ago the state offered a 100-bed unit at the ORV to be used as its jail as the current facility is in noncompliance, mainly because of overcrowding. The lease is for 15 years at a cost of $1 a year.

The state has said the Ironton-based jail should only house 27 inmates, while daily census there can range from 70 to 100 plus.

The commissioners agreed to make the move in steps starting with opening one section that can house up to 25 prisoners this summer.

A cost analysis prepared by Stephens’ office showed that moving 25 prisoners down to the ORV for six months would cost $449,940. However, to house those prisoners in an out-of-county facility at a cost of $60 a day, which is what Scioto County charges, would be $273,000 or $176,940 less than opening up the ORV.

The Tribune had incorrectly reported in Friday’s edition that the cost to make the move would be $176,940.

“But the bottom line is either option is not doable with the current budget without severely cutting line items in the budget,” Stephens said.

Right now the sheriff’s office is projected to need between $75,000 to $100,000 to stay in the black with his current budget.

“My point is there are still many, many questions to be answered,” Stephens said. “Where is the $450,000 going to come from, what line items? And that is just this year. The other question is where is the $900,000 going to come from out of the 2016 budget? The bottom line is the county can’t afford to do the ORV. How long are we going to continue this charade? There is not one penny appropriated to move to the ORV.”

However despite the auditor’s cost analysis, commissioner Bill Pratt said he saw no reason for the commissioners not to sign the lease.

“It is only $1,” Pratt said. “If the county can’t afford to move, it won’t move. There is no reason to ax the project at this point. I will take $15 out of my pocket and pay the state of Ohio.”

Finding the money for the move will be up to the commissioners, Pratt said.

“Until any of that happens, we really don’t know what the cost would be,” he said. “What we have done, we have given the sheriff another option.”