Holliday: No movement on new jail at this time

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 7, 2022

Following the defeat of a proposed sales tax to fund the construction and operation of a new Lawrence County Jail, commission president DeAnna Holliday said there would be “no movement on the jail” at this time.

The commission met on Wednesday, the morning after voters in the county rejected a half percent sales tax to fund the $32 million project.

The county had received $16.8 million in funding to go to toward the jail and commissioners had placed the sales tax on the primary ballot to fund the remainder of the project. Voters rejected the proposal, 65.64 to 34.36 percent.

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During the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, the commission heard from Scott Holschuh, who lives near the proposed site of the jail on Adams Street and County Road 24.

He asked if the county still intended that land, located at the site of a former cement plant, as the site. “You said if the tax did not pass it would be a moot point,” Holschuh said. “Is the commission still going after that property?

Holliday said the commission had not had an opportunity to speak about the results of the election. “At this time there will be no movement on the jail,” she said. “The levy did fail last night.”

Lawrence County primary election turnout

She said the commissioners would respect the results of that vote. “And so, the purpose of having an election and a vote is for the people’s voice to be heard and they have spoken,” she said. “So we now look at how we move forward in terms of our jail operation. But the current plan to build a jail and take advantage of the $16.8 million grant is not viable at this time.”

Holschuh asked if the funding from the state could still be available. “Did you ask the state to hold that until the next election or a different time, or will that be awarded to a different county?’ he said. Holliday said the county had already asked the state to hold the funds until the primary and a sales tax could be passed.

“They were holding it for us until we could get through this primary,” she said. “So that has already happened, and what will happen with that moving forward is not known at this time.” She said she anticipated that funding would no longer be available.

“But there are other counties that are vying for money and I can’t imagine the state will leave it on the table,” she said. “There’s such a great need for it. But that’s just my opinion, so that’s not carved in stone.”

The commission had proposed the former Lombard Elementary school site on Lorain Street in Ironton as the site of the jail. However, after some residents of that neighborhood voiced their opposition the plan, the commission took that property out of consideration and chose the former cement plant site. The property would have been annexed to Ironton, as it is a requirement that the jail be located in the county seat.

The commission, in announcing the property, said they chose the new site to avoid concerns of locating the jail in a residential neighborhood. However, Holschuh said the new site was close to the subdivision where he lives. He asked Holliday if she looked at the neighborhood, as he asked her to do at the previous council meeting.

“I did drive out,” Holliday said. “I actually came home that way so I could see how close it was. I did not go up into the subdivision. I stayed on Hawk Run. As far as how crow flies, I’m not sure how close it is. You described where your home is, but I could not see the closeness there, just driving the road.”

Holschuh disputed this and said the jail site was separated from the neighborhood by “a little hill dividing it, which anyone could walk across.” He suggested they get aerial views of the land from the county auditor’s office.

“I’m old and out of shape, but I can walk from my front porch to the jail property where you proposed to put it in a little over five minutes,” he said. “You get a healthy person, with lot of adrenaline flowing, they can be on my front porch in probably about three minutes.”

He said he worried the jail could lower property values as well.

“In the future, if you look at property, I’d really like you to go into the neighborhood and talk to the people,” he said. “You’re not gonna make everyone happy, but there are better properties that aren’t affecting a neighborhood. We will fight it and we will continue to fight it because we don’t want it there.”

Holliday said the commission has been listening to the public and the citizens, both in regular meetings and in their meeting room on the issue, noting they have had several meetings with residents of both areas in the last few months on the issue.

She reiterated that she did make an effort to view the neighborhood in the last week.

“I did do that, maybe not in manner you wanted, but I did do that,” she said.

In other business, the commission:

• Heard from commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. in commissioners reports. Hayes said the contractor has started work on the new Lawrence County Senior Center at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds, set to open this fall.

“The dozer is there,” he said. “It’s going to be a nice thing. They’ll be able to feed 200 inside there.”

Hayes’ 10-year run on the commission will come to a close at the end of the year, after he lost a primary challenge to Mike Finley on Tuesday.

In his time on the body, he had been a vocal advocate for the senior center, first helping to establish it in its current location at the Chesapeake Community Center (as the Sybene –Chesapeake Senior Center) and then working with state officials to secure funding for the new center.

“I’m very proud that is getting done,” Hayes said of the new facility, also noting the county has also paid off the main barn at the fairgrounds this year.

Hayes also debunked false rumors that the Lawrence County Fair was relocating.

“The fair’s not moving, no matter what people say,” he said. I just wanted to give the heads up on that. I’d like to clarify everything – we will have the fair and it will stay there. “

He said this was one of the reasons the county pushed for the senior center and grant funding from the state to construct it.

“It’s a million dollar building that was given to us – the grant money, so I’m very proud of that,” he said.

• Heard from assistant administrator Katrina Keith, who reminded the public of the National Day of Prayer, which took place on Thursday.

Keith also directed the public to two items on the commission’s website. One was for the spring clean up in the county, details of which were available online.

The other is for a list of food distribution in the county.

“If anybody has had any issues or food insecurities, please visit our website,” Keith said. “You will see the list of places distributing food.”

• Approved minutes of the April 19 commission meeting, as well as floodplain permits and appropriation and transfers under $50,000 dated May 3.

• Approved and signed the request for the release of funds and certification for federally funded state projects, requested by Michelle Throckmorton, community development director.

• Approved and signed the final resolution to vacate Township Road 1443E, between County Road 276 and Township Road 1442, as a matter of public convenience.

• Received and referred a petition to accept Private Drive 123, off County Road 9 in Rome Township, as a township road to the county engineer.