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Letting sheriff decide about ORV

Budget could provide enough for Lawless to choose option

Offering a budget that would give the sheriff enough money to decide what he wants to do with the jail is the goal of one of the commissioners.

“I want to create a line item to be large enough to either move to the ORV or continue out of county,” commissioner Bill Pratt said. “(Sheriff) Jeff (Lawless) can do one or the other, but we have to get through this year first.

About a year ago the county turned down the state’s offer to move the county jail down to a unit at the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace. The offer came to offset the overcrowding at the county facility where census can hit 100 inmates a day. For the past year sheriff Jeff Lawless has expanded sending inmates out of county to keep census down to 52.

“If we can pass the budget the first part of November to give Jeff the opportunity to make the decision on which direction he wants to go — to make the move to the ORV or to the out of counties (jail), Pratt said.

To make the ORV ready for occupancy by the county a fence, sally port and visitors room would be required to be built by the state as per the agreement between county and state.

“He could declare that to the state and the state could go ahead to make those improvements,” Pratt said. “I want to leave that up to him. I want him to have the ability to make that decision.”

Until last week the county had spent almost $369,000 to house prisoners in five out of county facilities. At this past Thursday’s meeting the commissioners transferred approximately $60,000 to that fund, but that is not expected to get the sheriff’s office through to the end of the year.

“We asked the auditor’s office to look over line items to see if there is any excess available,” Pratt said. “It might be money that is not going to be used. That usually happens.”

Also, Pratt wants to ask the budget commission to certify a quarter of a million dollars since the county’s sale tax revenue is up.

“That will get us to making the next year budget,” he said. “Pending on what the revenue is we will have to cut services. It’s not what I want to do, but we have to govern with what we have.”

Right now, the commissioner doesn’t know what funds would be cut.

Since the state made its proposal, Lawless has always supported the ORV move until the county can build its own jail.

“Although the ORV is not the ideal situation, you would like a jail in our county, I think the ORV is the best option.” Lawless said. “We are spending way too much money going out of county and for overtime and the inconvenience of having prisoners away from here. “

Pratt thinks between three-fourths of a million to $1 million would cover what Lawless would need for either the ORV move or to stay with out of county jails.

“It will be painful,” he said. “That is the difficult part of governing. But we can do it.”