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Blankenship appointed to STAR Board

Sinkhole developing behind jail, EMA building

Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services Assistant Director Rich Blankenship was appointed to the STAR Community Justice Center Board Tuesday after some discussion on the matter at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

The original agenda item was for the commission to defer the appointment back to the Common Pleas Court. However, Judges Charles Cooper and Andrew Ballard could not make a decision on the appointment, and asked the commission to make the appointment to the board, which has members from about nine counties.

Cooper recommended county sheriff Jeff Lawless, while Ballard made the recommendation of Blankenship, stating that he felt it was best to have the appointee not be an elected county officeholder, to keep politics out of it as much as possible.

Ballard added that although Blankenship also serves on the Ironton City Council, he would be a better appointment because he does not serve a county office and is not actively involved in law enforcement.

Lawless said he would be happy with whatever decision the commission made, and that he believed Blankenship would serve the board just as well if he was appointed, adding that he had “a lot on his plate” already just serving as the sheriff.

The commission agreed and voted unanimously to appoint Blankenship to the board.

Lawless also alerted commission of a large sinkhole developing behind the jail, between the jail and the county EMA building. The development was discovered after Lawless was made aware of a woman delivering items to the EMA building and tripping on the sidewalk, scraping her knees and legs.

He said that county EMS assisted her at the scene, and that he taped off the section of the sidewalk to try to keep people away from the area.

The discovery of the sinkhole developing led Lawless to look at one of the walls of the jail, and found cracks in some places. He said that he didn’t believe it was the same area that had work done to it a few years ago with braces added, but that it was near it.

Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Burcham also gave the commission an update on the second half real estate tax collections for year.

The county collected $14.7 million for the second half of this year, compared to $12.3 million collected in the second half of 2016.

For the entire year this year, $38,028,038 was collected, compared to $32,599,272 collected last year, for an increase of $5.4 million, or 16.65 percent.

Burcham added that about $10 million would go back to the Lawrence County school districts to educate the county’s children.

Next year’s tentative tax deadlines are March 2, 2018 for the first half, and July 6, 2018, for the second half.

Burcham also said that the county is purchasing a bond worth $70,000 from Fayette Township, which was closing Tuesday, and that the township was going to purchase a backhoe for the village. He also said he’s had discussions with Ironton Police Chief Pam Wagner about the possibility of using the Neighborhood Investment Program to purchase five new police cruisers for the city.

The last thing Burcham mentioned was that the county Land Bank completed demolition of its 15th house this past Saturday, and that more would be completed throughout the county in the near future.

County resident Mike Finley asked the commission if there was anything that could be done to make Union Rome Sewer rates more fair to customers, by going on a usage basis. Currently, large businesses, such as Wyngate at RiversEdge and Proctor’s Landing senior living communities, as well as the Fairland School District go by usage, while all other customers have a fixed rate.

Finley said it’s not fair to an elderly person living alone to have to pay the same rate as a family with multiple children.

The commission said that they agreed something needed to be done, but that it depended on water companies releasing usage information, customers being willing to give information and figuring out who is not on a water system, but rather have private wells. The commission said that this was something that’s been tried in the past, but that they’d look into doing something about the issue. Currently, there are about 5,000 customers of Union Rome Sewer, and the rate is around $50 a month.

In other action, the commission:

• Approved the Dog Warden Reports dated July 22 and July 29, 2017.

• Approved the elevation of employment for Paramedic Chad Sansom from part-time EMT to part-time Paramedic.

• Approved eight floodplain permits.

• Approved 32 transfer funds.

• Approved and signed the a Preliminary Legislation Agreement with ODOT for County Road 406 and U.S. 52-21.44, as requested by Lawrence County Engineer Patrick Leighty, and authorized Leighty to be the contractual agent for the project. The project will repair a culvert that extends from the old K-Mart property to the ditch on the south side of U.S. 52 at the 21.44 mile mark. The culvert is currently deteriorating and causing some settlement issues with the roadway.

• Declared Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, Rally on the River Day in the city of Ironton, and Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, Fred Dillow Memorial Day in the county.