Commissioners announce progress

By Nikki Blankenship -

The Scioto County Commissioners announced Tuesday that the former STAR Community Justice in Franklin Furnace may not sit empty much longer and will be used to offer a program commissioners believe will be beneficial to the community. The building has been vacant since STAR relocated to the former youth prison last year.

The Commissioners passed two during their Tuesday meeting that Commissioner Bryan Davis says is a first step in bringing the project to life.

“The County Commissioners have been working with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) for over a year to repurpose the old STAR facility in Franklin Furnace. This is a first step in doing that,” Davis stated.

Scioto County will contract with partners in the community to re-purpose the facility to provide rehabilitation with technical and vocational training.

“The idea is to provide a chance for rehabilitation and also get some vocational training, so that way when they get out from this facility, the vision is that they have a pay check under their belt, and we have bridged the gap between being in the facility and finding work, which is a very hard time for anyone who’s offended and is trying to get back on their feet,” Davis explained.

The hope is this will help people built lives after incarceration and therefore reduce recidivism.

Commissioners also announced that the permissive sales tax collected for the month of April 2017 was up from last year. The County has a 1.5 percent sales tax. For the month of April, the County collected more than $1,095,451. That gives a year-to-date total of $6,454,762. That is more than $87 thousand more collected than in April 2016 and more than $304,266 year-to-date.

Davis attributed the increase to “increased economic activity.”

More specifically, he said, “There’s a couple things. The highway, of course, is one thing that is happening, and there’s a lot of people working in the county right now.”

The Commissioner also announced that the county’s unemployment rate is down to 6.1 percent.

The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services released the unemployment rates by county for May 2017, and Scioto County is nearly out of the red as economic activity has increased in the region. Though the County has led the state’s unemployment rates in the past, this decline shows improvement.

“We’re not that great. We’re eighth now, so we are starting to go down, but 6.1 percent is the lowest it has been since 2001,” Davis stated. “We have a lot of new restaurants. We have a lot of people working. The economic indicators are showing things are going in the right direction, so let’s keep it going.”

Ohio is currently at 4.9 percent. Though 6.1 is still high, the unemployment rate has been twice as high in the last decade. In 2010, Scioto County has an unemployment rate of 13 percent.

The Scioto County Commissioners meet at 9:30 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday on the first floor of the Scioto County Common Pleas Court, located at 602 7th Street in Portsmouth.

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.