By Wayne Allen
State and local officials met in Lawrence County last week to discuss a possible plan that, if implemented would reopen the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility (ORV) in Franklin Furnace.
“They (Lawrence County) held a meeting (last week) and it included representatives from all levels of state government. I was invited and welcome any opportunity to find a useful purpose for that facility to put people back to work,” said State Representative Dr. Terry Johnson. “A task force has been formed with a suspension date of sometime in June or July at that point they are going to put a plan together, to see if that is a viable opportunity.”
Part of the proposed plan would have STAR Community Justice Center moving from their current facility into part of ORV and Lawrence County would open another part of the facility as a jail.
In May of 2013, officials from Scioto, Lawrence and Jackson counties met with state officials to tour ORV to brainstorm possible uses of the closed facility. Johnson took a leadership role in bringing regional officials together for the meeting to talk about possible reuses of the facility. One of the possible reuses discussed was a regional jail.
One of the notions that sparked the idea of a regional jail was the need Lawrence County has for a new county jail. The county is under orders of the state to find new jail facilities. The ORV was initially considered a potential solution, even though it is located in Scioto County.
“We’re working in conjunction with Lawrence County to see if we can find a way we can used that facility that would mutually benefit us both,” said Josh Saunders, deputy director of STAR Community Justice Center.
Saunders said their current facility at 4578 Gallia Pike, Franklin Furnace, next door to ORV, is filled to capacity.
“We’ve been filled to capacity for the last several years and are running a waiting list of three to four months,” Saunders said.
Saunders said current capacity is 140 beds, in July the facility will be funded for an additional ten beds.
“Even that is not going to cure the need. We really need to be a over 200 bed or more facility,” Saunders said.
Saunders said at the meeting last week it was agreed the plan needed to be studied and possibilities explored.
“We’ve been given the task to work with Lawrence County to see if we can come up with a way to make this happen and see if we can find any obstacles that may prevent it from happening,” Saunders said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions, but it definitely looks like a possibility.”
Saunders said if a more were to happen for STAR Community Justice Center they would move into the Liberation Unit at ORV.
“That (Liberation Unit) was originally constructed to house 100 maximum security youth offenders. It could easily be used to house up to 200 if it was double bunked,” Saunders said. “They (Lawrence County) would use one of the other larger units and I think we could use some of the other units as well.”
Saunders said this move would be a good thing and could be beneficial to the offenders and have a big impact on the waiting list they are currently maintaining. He said the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections along with other branches of the state government have showed their support for the idea during the meeting last week.
On Tuesday, Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree said he had received some information about what is is the works through a conversation with Lawrence County Commissioner Less Boggs.
“We don’t know who all is on board at the state level or anything else for that matter,” Crabtree said. “It’s my understanding that Gov. John Kasich is trying to work with them to come up with a plan that’s satisfactory for the state and Lawrence County.”
Crabtree said he does not know what kind of purchase agreement would be reached, if Lawrence County would purchase the facility or if the state would allow them and STAR Community Justice Center to use the facility.
“I don’t know if Lawrence County has the revenue to buy that facility or a portion of it, but if they don’t the sate will be apart of that. I’m in the process of gathering that kind of information,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree said base on the conversation he’s had there could be as many as 50 new jobs created as a result of this venture.
“They are talking like maybe between STAR Justice (Community Center) and Lawrence County there may be as many as 50 new jobs. That would benefit some in Scioto and Lawrence County, either way its a plus for the folks that live here,” Crabtree said. “If this happens there is going to be some positives that come out if it. Obviously the contract the (Scioto County) sheriff has with Lawrence County may go by the wayside, but I would not look at that as a completely negative thing. There will be some benefits that come from additional tax payers and jobs created. It will likely not replace that lost revenue, but at least there would be some positive out it this.”
Crabtree said he was going to talk with Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini on Tuesday to see what he knows about the plan.
“It’s not a done deal. I’ve heard all kinds of rumors about how they (Lawrence County) have already made a deal with the state. In talking to Less (Boggs, Lawrence County Commissioner) yesterday (Monday), it’s my understanding it’s a work in progress and is not a done deal by any means,” he said.
One of the factors working against a possible deal is the Ohio Department of Administrative Services held a bid opening in February to sell ORV. A total of three bids were received. Richard Polacheck of Ironton bid $485,000 for the facility. Ohio Juvenile Academy and Corrections, LLC of Garfield Heights bid $605,000 for the facility and Sula Limited of North Ridgeville bid $267,000 for the facility. Those bids are currently being reviewed by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.