Commission takes step toward jail move

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

DJFS questions authority at department

The Lawrence County commissioners took a first step toward a jail move to the former ORV facility in Franklin Furnace at their meeting Tuesday morning.

Commission approved to transfer $500,000 from the Sheriff’s Department’s out of county jail expenses to a new line item within the same department labeled ‘ORV Operations’ after Commissioner DeAnna Holliday made a motion.

“The jail situation has been at the forefront for several years now,” Holliday said. “We haven’t moved forward with it, but we haven’t moved backward. We’ve just not been moving at all. I think it’s time to make an effort to move forward.”

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Holliday added that, in her opinion, the ORV has a tremendous opportunity for a revenue stream in the future and that the county would be unable to sustain two jails, requiring the current jail to close. Commission was initially looking into using only one pod at the ORV for prison overflow.

Holliday followed that up with another motion to request from the state Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) the necessary physical improvements in order to open the facility within 60 days, stressing that she wanted to differentiate everything that is absolutely necessary to open the facility versus jail wants.

The moves come a week after commission, along with several officeholders, toured the facility with Sheriff Jeff Lawless.

At the meeting Tuesday, Lawless presented commission with a letter containing the financial figures of things that are needed at the ORV, as they requested during the tour. However, at the time commission was still considering one pod of the ORV for overflow, so the costs presented will change if full jail operations go to the ORV and the current jail closes.

Lawless said that some totals of items in the presented costs may go down due to being able to have all of the current equipment at the ORV, but the costs would still be very expensive, adding that he would also need to hire at least eight more correctional officers and a maintenance person.

The $500,000 in the newly formed ‘ORV Operations’ line item leaves the sheriff’s department’s out of county travel expenses at around $250,000.

“We still left them $250,000 to operate with out of county travel expenses,” Holliday said. “But we want to act as quickly as we can with a move so that will be enough.”

Holliday said that commission wants to renegotiate with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) over the lease of the facility, and the county making these moves will show the state its willingness to act.

An item on Tuesday’s commission agenda to meet with a Gary Mohn from the DAS requesting the state terminate the lease with the county for the ORV was tabled.

Also at commission, Melinda Brown, with the Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services, questioned the commissioners on the authority of the department, stating that there has been confusion as to who is actually in charge.

She said that recently, things have not been getting done properly and/or on time at the department, and wanted clarification on who has authority.

“There are problems we want to resolve,” Brown said. “We’ve been told that the director has no power to make actions and that it all comes back to the commissioners.”

Commissioner Bill Pratt said that past commissions have been more involved with the department, but that the current commission is giving total authority to DJFS director Terry Porter, stating that commission doesn’t know enough about the department’s day-to-day operations to be in total charge, or even being co-in charge along with Porter.

Porter has total authority to hire, fire and reprimand in the department. The only thing the commission would have to do is hire an assistant director if they see it necessary.

In other action, commission:

• Approved and signed the weekly invoices and certificates as presented by the auditor’s office.

• Received and filed the Dog Warden Report dated Jan. 14, 2017.

• Approved one transfer fund.

• Approved three appropriate funds.

• Approved two floodplain permits.

• Approved the LCEMS employees to utilize the sick leave donation policy of 115.03 hours.

• Received and filed Underground Storage Tank Regulations (BUSTR) with no further action required.

• Adopted the permanent budget for both the general fund and the special revenue funds for the calendar year 2017 as presented.

• Approved Commission President Bill Pratt to sign the pay request #1 for the Ohio Airport Matching Grant Program in the amount of $1,484.

• Received and filed the correspondence from Lawrence County Airport contractors that they are conforming the ban of expenditures of public funds on off shore services.

The next commission meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant in South Point. The meeting will serve as February’s monthly officeholder meeting as well.