Pratt to head up group tasked with jail solutions
IRONTON -- Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt will head up a group working on the county's jail problems and work with representatives of the STAR Community Justice Center to take over the former Ohio River Valley youth prison in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and possibly hold Lawrence County prisoners.
"We're in a crisis situation" at the jail, said County Commissioner Les Boggs. "Our first love would be to build a new jail. We don't have the money and neither does the state."
More than a dozen state officials came down to Ironton on Wednesday to talk about a potential solution to the jail problem. "They want an organizational plan in place by June 30," Boggs said. "I was impressed by the number of people who came here from Columbus. They want this driven from down here."
Sheriff Jeff Lawless, Eddie Philabaun, director of the justice center, Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship, a representative of the county prosecutor's office and the county auditor's office along with State. Rep. Terry Johnson and State Sen. Bob Peterson were among those named to work with the group on the jail issue.
The jail, built in 1972 to hold 52 prisoners, routinely holds 70 or more prisoners, meaning some people are sleeping on mats on the floor. State jail officials said existing space regulations provide that only 27 prisoners can be housed at the jail.
"No one is criticizing the sheriff, only the facility," Boggs said.
A number of details would have to be worked out including a long-term lease with Scioto County officials for 100 beds at the former youth prison that could hold up to 200 prisoners. Currently, the county spends about $400,000 per year at other county jails in Ohio.
In other action, County Treasurer Steve Burcham said Friday is the last day to file first-half taxes. Current collections are about $9.9 million. The same period last year tax collections were $11.1 million. "We're still hopeful of meeting our target," he said. His office hasn't received payments from several mortgage companies as yet, he said.
The board also heard a request for help from Gene Cox, Decatur Township volunteer fire department chief. He said the area needs a radio tower so that volunteers can be contacted for emergency calls. "The last call out we had, only half the volunteers were notified," he said. The closest radio tower is located along County Road 4 in Elizabeth Township, he said. "We've missed some calls. It needs to be fixed."
It would cost an estimated $15,483 to build a 190-foot tall radio tower, Cox said. The fire department only gets about $2,100 in taxes per year, he said. Decatur also is negotiations with Washington Township to handle fire calls, he said.
"This is a real issue," Boggs said.
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