EDITORIAL: Tax fails, but county jail issue remains

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 7, 2022

Last fall, when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that $16.8 million would be awarded to Lawrence County for the purpose of building a new county jail, the mood was celebratory among officials.

The light at the end of the tunnel was in sight for a longstanding problem for the county.

However, when it came time to fund the remainder of the $32 million project, resolution to the issue seemed to be a mirage and faded after the results of Tuesday’s primary election.

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The commissioners had proposed a half percent sales tax for the county to pay for construction and operation of a new jail, which was rejected by voters almost 2-1.

It was not really a surprise that the half percent proposal failed, with high inflation in effect and the public wary of any new expenses.

And there did not seem to be much of an informational campaign organized for its passage and two misconceptions were widely circulated.

There was a misconception that the tax would have applied to groceries and gasoline, which was not the case and should have been stressed.

Also, it was not made clear of the stakes.

As commission president DeAnna Holliday noted in this week’s meeting, due to high demand and intense competition, it is highly unlikely the state will hold the $16.8 million grant for the county any longer.

The commission had already asked them to keep it available until the primary, so now that opportunity is probably off the table.

In much of the feedback we had heard, many people expressed sentiment that the county had already received money from the state and, as a result, that the sales tax was not needed. Many were unaware that the state funding would be lost if the sales tax failed.

The plan for resolving the issue is now more or less defunct, but the problem of overcrowded conditions and antiquated facilities at the existing jail remains.

As the county moves forward, it is time for all sides in government to come up with a new solution.

Those who favored the tax plan should be open to other options, and those who took issue with the sales tax proposal should have a clear, alternative plan to offer.

And, most importantly, any solution that is proposed should be taken to the people and made as transparent as possible, with details spelled out clearly.

This issue has hung over Lawrence County for too long, and will not be going away.