Commissioners Continue to Explore Financial Ramifications of Building a New County Jail

County officials continue to investigate the feasibility of building a new jail for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. According to the latest numbers, the proposed project would likely be able to be completed without requesting a bond levy from the taxpayers of the county.

Reporting to the Monroe County Commissioners during their regular session meeting on July 14 were Sheriff Charles Black Jr.; Prosecuting Attorney James Peters; Rebecca Princehorn, Public Finance Lawyer with Bricker & Eckler; and Joseph Robertson IV, Director of Ohio Public Finance with Ross, Sinclaire & Associates, LLC.  Prosecuting Attorney Peters noted that the meeting was about exploring “what the county can or can’t afford” and “what size of facility the county can afford to operate.”

After Robertson presented projected operating costs for a 52 bed facility, a 88 bed facility or a 112 bed facility, Sheriff Black noted that the cost of housing prisoners in other counties’ facilities was not deducted from the overall operating costs. He said the county is projected to spend upwards of $400,000 this year in prisoner housing and has spent over $250,000 each year in recent years.

Sheriff Black also noted that those figures do not count overtime or fuel costs involved in transporting prisoners to other counties. He said he spent above $7,000 in overtime salary last month with a normal month being $3,000 to $4,000.

Commissioner (and former Monroe County Sheriff) Tim Price said, “What’s upsetting is when you look back and see how much money has been spent [in prisoner housing and transport].

Also discussed was the fact that the county often does not jail people who, under normal circumstances, would be jailed. This happens because the cost can be high or there simply is not room at any local jails to place someone. “These sorts of things have been going on for years,” said Commissioner Price.  Because of those issues, Sheriff Black and Prosecuting Attorney Peters both stated their opinion that a new jail for the county is necessary.

After the discussion, commissioners agreed to discontinue the exploration of building a 112 bed facility. The 52 bed facility and 88 bed facility are each still being considered. Robertson was directed to bring back new figures with the costs of housing and transporting prisoners deducted as operational savings.

Also meeting with commissioners was Jeanette Harter in regards to the 2015 county budget. Harter reported that the requests have been submitted. General fund requests for 2015 add up to $5,947,112.78. This is in excess by $664,487.58 of the projected revenue in 2015 of $5,282,625.20. Requests for other funds also came in slightly above the projected 2015 revenue of $16,054,192.86.   

Greg Jadwin of Air Evac met with commissioners to follow-up on his offer to the county. Jadwin had proposed on June 30 that the county enter a contract in the amount of $74,401 per year to cover all Monroe County residents for Air Evac lifeflights from within the county and the nearby area.

Speaking against the proposed contract was Monroe County EMS Coordinator Dave Kuhn. Kuhn said he values the services offered by Air Evac and said, “I support this outfit.” However, he said he thought such funding could be better utilized by local EMS groups.

Commissioner Carl Davis told Jadwin, “I see the value in it. I think it’s a good idea. But, I don’t know that it’s a good expenditure of county money.” Commissioner Price added, “I don’t think we’re in the position right now where we can do it.” Both expressed that more pressing needs such as a county jail were on their table now. Jadwin said he would continue to offer the proposal if the situation changes.

Commissioners met with County Engineer Lonnie Tustin to award a bid on the paving project on CR 2 and CR 39. The engineer's estimate had the projected cost at $550,055.30. Two bids were had been received on June 30. Lash Paving of Colerain presented the low bid of $535,734.05. Also submitting a bid was Shelley and Sands of Rayland in the amount of $549,734.10. After a recommendation from Tustin, commissioners passed a motion to accept Lash Paving’s low bid.

Reporting to commissioners about recent dog tag enforcement issues was Dog Warden Ronda Piatt. Piatt said discussions with Prosecuting Attorney Peters have revealed that there are no residency restrictions on tag requirements. As long as the dog is three months of age or older, tags must be purchased even if the owner is a temporary resident of the county.

Piatt said she has been traveling to campgrounds within the county to identify tagless dogs brought in by transient workers. All but one campground have cooperated, and Piatt said she would be returning to the other with legal documents and a deputy.

The next regular session meeting of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners will be held on July 21 at 9 a.m.