Commissioners' Meetings: Sheriff Discusses Need For Jail; Township Association Continues to Request Money

The Monroe County Commissioners had a short meeting day on Sept. 8, meeting only with Monroe County Sheriff Charles Black Jr. and Zane Daniels of the Columbia Pipeline Group.

Sheriff Black spoke to commissioners about the progress on talks on building a new jail. He said his office has been negatively impacted in various ways by the necessity of housing prisoners at other county jails and he is hoping for a decision soon.

According to Sheriff Black, his office is projecting a cost of $120,000 to $130,000 to house prisoners from August through the end of the year and have only $20,000 left in the prisoner housing fund. He said the prisoner housing fund isn’t the only part of his department being affected. “The overtime is killing us,” said Sheriff Black. He noted that most of his office’s overtime comes because of transporting prisoners to far-flung areas. He said transporting prisoners is also affecting fuel costs, case loads and patrols in the county.

Sheriff Black also gave specific examples of what his department must do to house prisoners. He said last week he had two female prisoners. He had to “practically beg” Licking County to house one. The other female prisoner was placed on house arrest at the Olive Tree Inn.

“I hate to be a broken record on this, but we’re going to have some significant issues by the end of the year on housing,” Sheriff Black said.

Commissioners told Sheriff Black that a meeting is scheduled between them and Prosecuting Attorney James Peters for the Sept. 15 commissioners’ meeting at 10 a.m. in regards to the jail. Commissioners also said they will soon be meeting with a representative of Ross, Sinclaire and Associates to discuss feasibility of the jail. 

After the discussion, commissioners passed a motion to fund the prisoner housing fund an additional $60,000. Commissioner John Pyles asked Sheriff Black to keep commissioners posted on the financial situation and when more additional funding is needed.

Zane Daniels of the Columbia Pipeline Group met with commissioners to notify them of a planned pipeline in the county. Daniels told commissioners if they had any complaints from constituents to direct them to him. For more information about the proposed pipeline, see the article on the front page.

Commissioners met on Sept. 2, one day later than their normal meeting day due to the Labor Day holiday.

Commissioners met with EMA Director Phil Keevert to discuss the EMA Assistant position. The majority of the conversation was held in executive session. Commissioners passed a motion to hire Jeremy Taylor of Lewisville who will be the EMA Assistant at 29 hours week with a 180 day probation period and no benefits.

Also meeting with commissioners was Township Association President Dale Dietrich in regards to a previous request on behalf of the townships for more funding from the county. Dietrich specifically requested the sum of $2,000 a month to come out of casino revenue and go to each of the county’s 18 townships, an amount that would add up to $36,000 a month and $432,000 a year.

Commissioner John Pyles appeared to give the request some consideration, asking several questions. Pyles asked when the money would be distributed and what would happen if a township had appropriate funding and didn’t need any additional monies. He also said such an agreement would have to take into account if casino revenue goes down, so does the county’s contribution to the townships.

Commissioners made no decision on the subject, and no motion was made. Dietrich asked that they continue to consider the matter.

Pandora Neuhart, representing the Monroe County Suicide Prevention Coalition met with commissioners to discuss suicide prevention. She asked that commissioners declare the week of Sept. 7 Suicide Prevention Awareness Week focusing on Depression and Suicide. Commissioners passed a motion for the declaration and read a proclamation. Included in the proclamation was, “Whereas, Suicide is largely preventable. All citizens can help prevent suicide by becoming aware of warning signs and risk factors and knowing where to get help for individuals at risk.”

Commissioners also met with Scott Cottrill of Otis Elevator Company. Cottrill spoke about the cost to repair the courthouse’s broken elevator while making it meet code. According to Cottrill, the final cost of repair should be somewhere around $75,000. The repair is estimated to take two to three weeks once work is initiated.