PDT Staff Writer
Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said in an interview with the Daily Times that he is in conversations with Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini about leasing additional jail beds.
Lawless said if the commitment would be made by Lawrence County, Donini would have to open another facility. The location of the extra facility could be the former juvenile detention center and current Second Chance Center which operates under a lease agreement with the county that expired last month.
“Our jail remains overcrowded and we are reaching out to try to alleviate this problem. We are certainly grateful that Scioto County accepts prisoners from us now,” Lawless said. “We currently contract 10 beds with them now and are frequently asking for additional bed space.”
Lawless said there had been a push for Lawrence County to obtain the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Detention Center in Franklin Furnace.
“It does not look like that’s going to happen so, we’ve been reaching out to other places to see what we can do to help alleviate the overcrowding at the jail,” Lawless said. “Sheriff Donini was kind enough to approach me and say there is a possibility they may be able to open up another facility or another wing that would provide more bed space to Lawrence County.”
Lawless said he presented the idea of renting more beds from Scioto County to the Lawrence County Commissioners for consideration. He said he is asking the Lawrence County Commissioners contract an additional 20 beds in addition to the 10 they currently have.
“The hope would be instead of the 10 we currently contract with, we (Lawrence County) would be contracting 30 and possibly 40 beds with Scioto County,” Lawless said.
Lawless said this would be a good thing for Lawrence County and would allow them to cancel contracts they have with other facilities that house their inmates at locations farther away than Scioto County.
In May, Donini was asked if the solution to Lawrence County’s overcrowding issues will come from Scioto County.
“We all know what the situation is, we’re sorry for Lawrence County,” Donini said at the time. “Like I told the board of commissioners, we need to try to resolve Lawrence County’s issues for them. This way their problems will not turn into our problems.”
At the time, Donini said he has been in conversations with Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless about different possibilities.
“I’ve had an idea for a couple of years of using the former juvenile detention facility. It would be a prime location to take an additional 30-40 inmates from Lawrence County to help resolve their issue,” Donini said. “The only problem is, it’s currently occupied by The Counseling Center, who’s making no revenue at all for the county.”
Upon review of the 2011 contract between the Scioto County Commissioners and The Counseling Center for use of the facility, Assistant Scioto County Prosecutor Danielle Parker said The Counseling Center has an option on the building until 2016.
“The contract we have is a yearly contract the way it was set it, it’s renewable for five years. That means that, as long as they comply with the terms of the contract, they can renew that until 2016,” said Mike Crabtree, Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners. “I know they have their plans for the building and I’m sure they are going to try to hold onto the contract and if they do, we have to honor that.”
Crabtree said there has not been much communication between the commissioners and The Counseling Center about renewing the agreement dated July 2011 and renewed in 2012. However, Ed Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of The Counseling Center, said the necessary paperwork to renew the lease agreement for another year was submitted a several weeks ago.
“We have already executed the lease for that building with the commissioners for this year,” Hughes said. “We have submitted all the appropriate paperwork to the commissioners and we did that several weeks ago. That’s the only knowledge I have, I don’t know anything about what’s going on in terms of Sheriff Donini trying for the additional beds.”
Hughes said he would have to check with the commissioners on the status of the continued lease.
“We are very interested in continuing with that building,” Hughes said.
Under the lease agreement, The Counseling Center Inc. assumes all financial responsibilities for any and all utilities and maintenance on the building. The Counseling Center has to seek approval commissioners to make interior alterations to the building.
The agreement also states that a 90-day notice must be given to the commissioners if The Counseling Center wishes to cease its business and terminate the lease. The commissioners must give a 30-day notice to The Counseling Center if they choose to terminate the agreement.
“At this this point our consideration has to be, do we have a better purpose for that building and if we do is there any potential in it for Marty Donini?” Crabtree said. “He’s looking into possibilities right now. What he does has a lot to do with how we move forward.”
Crabtree said the county would have to incur new costs to reopen the facility as a jail.
“It’s not exactly suitable for his (Donini’s) purpose. I’ve chose to hold back on doing anything with that until we get some kind of a firm proposal from the Sheriff on what purpose he may have for it and then determine how to move forward,” Crabtree said. “I don’t have any bones to pick with Ed Hughes or anyone down there. It’s been in operation for this long, to me that does not matter that much and is a moot point. If we do have a better purpose for it, then we may proceed to try to do something to get it back.”
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.