By Wayne Allen
The Chairman of the Lawrence County Commissioners Les Boggs told the Daily Times on Tuesday conversations are occurring about the county backing out of a decision to relocate its jail to the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility (ORVJCF) in Franklin Furnace.
“It’s being discussed. At this particular time, that’s all I can say,” Boggs said.
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 matter was a topic of discussion at the Scioto County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday. Scioto County Commissioners said they were under the impression Lawrence County had withdrawn their willingness to relocate their jail.
The Scioto County Commissioners again 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. The commissioners said the possibility of an addition may be possible, if conditions were right.
Ever since the idea of Lawrence County moving their jail to Scioto County was first talked about, there has been some resistance. At one point the Scioto County Commissioners hired outside legal counsel to explore the possibility of challenging the law that gave Lawrence County Sheriff and Prosecutor jurisdiction over the Liberation Unit located in Scioto County.
A number of improvements or fixes have been made to the ORVJCF campus totaling $542,260.
Some in Lawrence and Scioto counties have doubted the availability of funds to make the move and operate a relocated jail. Some estimates had the move costing as much as $1.3 million. In the budget process, the Lawrence County Commissioners allocated $500,000 for the move. At one point the idea of a tax levy was discussed as an avenue of funding the move.
Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said one once the biggest obstacles to the move has, and will continue to be, funding. He said his office is currently facing a $100,000 budget deficit to run daily operations.
STAR Community Justice Center, currently located next to the former ORVJCF, is moving forward with plans to move to ORVJCF and double current capacity. As a part of the move, STAR was planning to hire more than 50 people and expand programs offered. As on Monday afternoon STAR, had not begun the moving process with no indication on when they might.
It’s speculated that once Lawrence County officially pulls out of the deal, STAR might find a use for the Liberation Unit.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT