Lawrence County commission debates courthouse upgrades

March 17, 2018 GMT

IRONTON — While not giving out many details, the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners announced plans Thursday to use up to $4 million in state funds to make repairs and upgrades to the 110-year-old courthouse building in Ironton.

The board met behind closed doors with Perfection Group on legal issues before discussing courthouse infrastructure needs. The county built a three-story addition to the courthouse 45 years ago but hasn’t done any major renovations at the courthouse since then.

“Lawrence County has more than one need,” Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said, but one big need is the status of the Lawrence County Jail, which is limited to holding 52 prisoners, leaving the county to house dozens of defendants awaiting trial at other Ohio county jails.

Holliday said the county is looking at two potential sites for a jail that could cost $11 million or more to build. At this point, the county doesn’t have sufficient funds to staff a new jail, a problem Scioto County had when it built a new jail several years ago.

There are counties around Ohio without a county jail, Holliday said, noting that jail costs are a problem faced by counties around the Buckeye State.

“We take a lot of criticism over the jail,” said Commissioner Freddie Hayes. “I want a new jail, but there are other needs.”

Perfection Group, a Cincinnati design, build, engineering and contracting firm, has been working with the county on HVAC and masonry needs at the courthouse for several years. The firm also made renovations at the Greenup County Detention Center and on a building in Carter County, both in Kentucky.

The courthouse in Ironton needs significant HVAC renovations, lighting improvements, roof and masonry repairs, among other improvements, said David H. Blevins, vice president of engineering for Perfection Group.

He also recommended adding parking spaces on the Park Avenue side of the courthouse lawn and adding insulation to the courthouse roof.

“I’d like to do it this year,”

Commissioner Bill Pratt said of proposed courthouse improvements. “There are no ballpark costs” at this time.

Commissioners also took a break from the meeting to get a look at two new ambulances for the Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services.

Jeff Gaskin, an official with the ambulance district, said the new ambulances need to be equipped with radios and should be put in service in about two weeks.

The board also heard a report from County Treasurer Stephen Burcham that his office has collected more than $23 million in county taxes and he expects the amount to increase to $25.5 million when the final report is ready.

That represents a $2 million increase from the prior year, due primarily to a levy approved last year by county voters to set money aside for the ambulance district, Burcham said.