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Commission receives letters on ORV

Lease expires in May

The Lawrence County commissioners received three letters at their meeting Tuesday regarding the potential jail move to the Ohio River Valley facility in Franklin Furnace.

The letters come after Commission President Bill Pratt issued an offer to all county offices to submit a letter if they are in favor of a move and if any of their funds could be cut to support the move at the last commission meeting.

“I do not have access to the same information as the commissioners, with regard to the ORV facility or the expenses involved in housing overflow prisoners in other counties, but it seems to me that the current out-of-county housing system is unsustainable and extremely inefficient,” Lawrence County Municipal Court Judge Donald Capper wrote in his letter. “I would certainly prefer an adequate jail within the confines of our county. I would like to see a plan in place to make that happen in the long-range planning of the county. In the short-term, I believe the ORV facility is an option that must be explored.”

Capper also stated in his letter that jail is “a tool that I need as a judge to have available,” and that in a perfect situation, “a judge should not have to consider the county’s financial situation in making sentencing decisions.”

“But I feel that as a judge I must be a team player, and therefore, I have tried to minimize incarcerations where I can,” Capper’s letter stated. “…In the drug crisis that we are now facing, I must have access to the jail in dealing with defendants who have substance abuse issues. There must be consequences for bad behavior and failure to follow rehabilitation requirements. Further, we are often constrained in how we handle a defendant’s case for hearings and motions when they have been transported out of the county for incarceration.”

As far as contributing any of the county municipal court budget to the move, Capper stated that their budget has already been reduced since last year, and that the court has been one of the most efficient in Southern Ohio in terms of the number of cases handled per dollar.

“The bottom line is our court is operating on a very tight budget currently, and there is no waste. Be that as it may, I would welcome further involvement and input into the jail overcrowding issues facing the county and jail, and would pledge to help in any way possible. I do have ideas that I think could be implemented that could help in the short-term until a long range solution can be reached.”

Another office holder who submitted a letter was Lawrence County Recorder Sharon Hager.

“While I am not opposed to the move to the ORV facility, I cannot, in good faith, say that I strongly support the move due to financial restraints,” Hager stated in her letter after commending the commissioners and Sheriff Jeff Lawless on all of their hard work to try and figure out a solution. “I am unable to contribute any funds to making this move possible… Even if I were not faced with any extra expense, I would not have funds available to make any real difference in a move of this magnitude.”

Hager’s letter stated that her office’s budget was already cut this year at the same time as being faced with staffing issues, with a longtime employee being on sick leave and working with two part-time employees.

“I sincerely wish that I could offer a solution to the jail situation and I do not envy your responsibility in this matter,” her letter states.

The third letter was from Sheriff Jeff Lawless, who, once again, said he was for the move if the county was able to make it work without causing the county financial devastation or cut services.

“As I have worked through this project over the years and studied the situation, the painful reality is that it is going to cost a lot of money to get this project off the ground and then to sustain its operation. I hope that monies are found for this project, but I certainly want to ensure that the county’s operations do not suffer irreparable financial devastation in an effort to make this project work,” Lawless stated in his letter. “If you, as the Board of Commissioners, believe that the funds are available to bring the building into compliance as required by the Bureau of Adult Detention, have the funds to allow me to hire enough employees to provide a staffing plan that the Bureau of Adult Detention will accept, provide funds to allow me to purchase all the necessary equipment and materials needed, and any and all miscellaneous items, I will welcome the opportunity to tackle this project. Please take the time to study all aspects of this project, both short and long-term, and make the best decision for the county as a whole.”

During the commissioner’s reports, DeAnna Holliday and Freddie Hayes Jr. stated that they were in favor of the move, with Freddie saying he has voted for the move each time commission has voted. Pratt stated that he was not in favor of the move, after changing his original stance on the issue when it first came up a few years ago.

The county’s lease with the state for the facility is set to expire in early May.

Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Burcham said that sales tax for this month was up $7,444 from this the this month last year, and that as a whole for the year, sales tax was up $95,420 from last year.

This year’s property tax was $22,884,172.68, up $2.6 million from last year.

Also at commission, the commissioners:

• Approved and signed the weekly invoices and certificates as presented by the Auditor’s Office.

• Received and filed the Dog Warden Report dated March 11, 2017.

• Approved four floodplain permits.

• Approved Mike Boster to the Planning Commission for a new three-year term beginning March 1, 2017, through Feb. 28, 2020.

• Approved the Ohio Airport Matching Grant for the Lawrence County Airpark Airport, from ODOT in the amount of $4,044.

• Approved and signed the specifications and bidding documents for the 2017 improvements to the Lawrence County Airpark.

• Received and filed the Certificate of Estimated Resources dated March 17, 2017.

• Received and filed the 2017 Material Bid Recommendation for BWC Trucking for Aggregate and Marathon Petroleum for Liquid Asphalt, requested by Patrick Leighty, Lawrence County Engineer.

• Approved and signed the Material Bid Notice of Award and Contract to Marathon Petroleum Company LP, requested by Patrick Leighty, Lawrence County Engineer.

• Approved and signed the Material Bid Notice of Award and Contract to BWC Trucking, requested by Patrick Leighty, Lawrence County Engineer.

• Approved four transfer funds.

• Approved seven appropriations.

Commission also met in executive session with Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services Director Terry Porter and Assistant Director Rich Blankenship regarding hire, fire, reprimand, although no action was taken.