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$60K approved for improvements at jail

Feb. 07, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- A nearly $60,000 bid for lighting improvements at the Lawrence County Jail was approved Thursday by the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners.

The board approved a $59,975 bid from Williams Electrical Service to improve the lighting at the jail and in the sheriff's office, an issue state jail inspectors have been pushing, said Sheriff Jeff Lawless.

The Jail Advisory Committee recommended the improvement.

"In the past three years we've spent about $175,000 on the jail," said Commissioner Bill Pratt. The board spent $69,300 last year for a new roof and $45,000 prior to that for the hot water system and to repair a cracked wall, Pratt said.

"This shows we're making a good faith effort to correct problems at the jail," Pratt said.

Earlier this week, the advisory committee agreed to ask Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton Lawrence County Community Action Organization, to apply for up to $50,000 for a feasibility study to make recommendations on jail improvements or a new jail. Kline will seek state funds for the study to look at replacing, remodeling or relocating the overcrowded jail, Pratt said.

There were 73 prisoners housed at the jail in Ironton across the street from the Lawrence County Courthouse on Thursday. The 42-year-old jail was designed to hold 52 prisoners. State jail officials say that under current jail regulations, the jail could house only 16 prisoners.

It would cost $8 to $10 million to build a new jail, Pratt said.

The county spends about $1.2 million for jail expenses including $300,000 to house prisoners in other county jails. The county currently houses up to 10 prisoners per day at the Scioto County Jail in Portsmouth.

"The state knows our (financial) situation," Lawless said. "We're landlocked where we are. Hopefully, the feasibility will point out our needs and determine if there's any federal money out there" to pay for housing federal prisoners, he said.

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