State terminates Lawrence over unpaid bills

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

Lawrence County has had its lease agreement concerning the Liberation Building at the Ohio River Valley Correctional Center (ORC) in Franklin Furnace terminated by the state of Ohio for not paying the utility bills for that facility.

In a letter to Lawrence County officials, Paul A. Russell, chief legal counsel for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS), that was a follow up to a correspondence dated Sept. 12, 2016 and Dec. 4, 2016 from Stephen Gray, chief counsel for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), the county was told they had not paid an accrued $67,361.02 in utility bills for the Liberation Building.

The two 2016 letters from the DRC informed Lawrence County of their obligation to pay the utility bills as they were incurred and that they had not been paid

“Those letters notified you that DRC had not received any payment from the county for those utility costs, which continue to accrue monthly,” Russell said in his letter. “In fact, at present, the county owes $67,361.02 in utility costs incurred through December 31, 2016 that have not been paid.”

“Your failure to timely remit payment constitutes default by the board as defined under Section XVI (A)(1) of the lease,” Russell said. “Please be advised that pursuant to Section XVI (A)(1), the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) is exercising its right to give notice of termination to end the term of the lease. Please take notice that the lease agreement shall terminate on May 5, 2017.”

In a decision aimed at curbing over-populations in the Lawrence County Jail, the Lawrence County Commissioners signed a lease agreement with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections for the use of the Liberation Unit on the campus of the former ORVJCF.

The Scioto County Commissioners had at one point brought up the idea of building an addition to the Scioto County Jail to house Lawrence County inmates, if a long-term lease agreement could be reached. At the time the commissioners said such an addition may be possible, if conditions were right.

The Daily Times approached the Scioto County Commissioners about the future status of the Liberation facility.

“I wish I had an answer,” Scioto County Commissioners Chairman Bryan Davis said. “We haven’t been involved in any way with negotiations between Lawrence County and the state. From what we understand DRC has voided their contract with the Liberation unit. What that means for the future of the Liberation unit, I have not heard. I don’t know if DRC will be opening that up for programming within STAR. I’m hoping they do. That was our recommendation from day one. They’re servicing 19 counties. I have a feeling we’re going to hear very soon what that means.”

A call made to the Lawrence County Commissioners Office on Thursday was unreturned.

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.