County might have to pay ORV utilties

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

Even though it’s been about a year since the county decided it would not take over the 100-bed unit at the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility, due to it being deemed too expensive, there may still be costs.

Right now, the state department of rehabilitation and corrections is reviewing utility costs at that unit, according to a spokesperson.

The state had offered the unit to the county for its jail to handle the sometimes massive overcrowding at that facility. The jail, built in the 1970s, was designed to house approximately 52 inmates. However, many times in the past years Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless has housed up to 100 inmates at a time.

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The county commission signed a lease for 15 years with the state to move the jail down to the Franklin Furnace facility. But later the commission decided the move was cost prohibitive.

About a year ago, Lawless started housing prisoners in facilities out of county, including Morrow and Scioto, to keep his census down to 52. At the first of the year, $375,000 was appropriated to cover those costs. However, that fund is almost depleted.

Commission president Les Boggs last week proposed the possibility of the commission instituting a public utility tax. He deemed that a fairer way of paying the current jail cost ,as well as funding a new jail than a property tax. However, the state legislature is trying to repeal the ability for a county to put on that kind of tax, according to Boggs.

County prosecutor Brigham Anderson is researching whether the county could put on such a tax, the commission president said.

Now, one of the only ways to fund building a new jail or the current housing costs would be a property tax, which the commissioners would have to approve before it could go on the ballot. Then it would be up to the voters.

The commission could also take appropriations from other sections of the budget, but that could lead to reducing services.