PDT Staff Writer
Officials from Scioto, Lawrence and Jackson Counties met with state officials Thursday to tour the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility (ORV) in Franklin Furnace and to brainstorm about possible uses of the closed facility.
In a profile of the complex, the Ohio Department of Administrative Services say it is 36 acres with 20 acres fenced in. The complex has 10 buildings and was built between 1996-2001. It is equipped with 242 occupancy rooms.
The complex also houses a cafeteria, maintenance, laundry, education, medical and administration facilities.
State Rep. Dr. Terry Johnson has taken a leadership role in bringing regional officials together to talk about possible reuses of the facility.
“The purpose of this meeting is to put people together and try to come up with a good use for this facility. It’s been lying fallow now for a couple years,” Johnson said.
When talking about possible reuses of the facility Johnson said, “If someone wanted to put a candy factory here, that would be great but, it was not built to be a candy factory. It would be smarter to use this facility for a similar purpose that it was constructed for.”
He said there have been a lot of ideas floated around when it comes to re-purposing the facility.
“The school has wanted this place, the folks that takes care of people with developmental disabilities wanted this place. This is a wonderful facility, a relativity new facility and it can be used for a lot of different purposes,” Johnson said. “At the same time, we also have great needs regionally. One of the things we don’t do well regionally is get together and talk across county lines. This is an opportunity for us to take a look at this facility and see what it has to offer.”
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 in desperate need in Lawrence County,” said Les Boggs, Lawrence County Commissioner. “We’re open to anything that would help. We’re open to all ideas.”
Lawrence County Sheriff Chief Deputy William Hitchcock described conditions at the Lawrence County jail.
“Right now people are sleeping on top of each other and on the floor,” Hitchcock said.
When presented the potential scenario of a fire breaking out at the current Lawrence County facility, Hitchcock was blunt.
“We would just have to open the doors and hope we can catch some of them later,” he said.
Johnson compared the conditions of the Lawrence County Jail to a Third World country.
“That jail is like living under Third World conditions. If you went to El Salvador you might expect those sort of conditions. So we’re trying to take care of people in third world conditions. If there is a fire or some kind of calamity people are going to die. This is not the way we want to treat folks.”
John Murphy, Scioto County Jail Administrator, said after touring the facility, “This is a nice facility with a lot of wasted space. The state has wasted a lot of money doing renovations in Circleville (Juvenile Correctional Facility) that this facility already had. As far as Scioto County goes, we would lose money as a regional facility. We all know Scioto County has been in fiscal emergency. Scioto County is making over a million dollars a year housing out-of-county prisoners and we stand to lose that with a regional concept.”
Johnson said next steps include gathering all of the ideas considered at the meeting and trying to work on the best solution.
“Everyone has a need, everyone has a desire. The trouble is, sometimes these things conflict. We don’t want to do anything to hurt Scioto County, on the other hand, we have a regional need that is vast and getting bigger,” Johnson said. “We have to think of ways to cooperate in ways we have never thought of before.”
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.