POMEROY — The Meigs County Commissioners heard an update during Thursday’s regular meeting regarding the status of the contract with the State Public Defender’s Office which is set to expire at the end of the month.
Steve Jagers with Meigs County Common Pleas Court updated commissioners Tim Ihle and Randy Smith on the plan of the court to provide representation for the county’s indigent defendants.
Currently the court contracts with the Public Defender’s Office out of Athens to represent a portion of the defendants, while other local attorneys are appointed for the remaining cases.
The new plan would take effect at the end of the contract with the Public Defender’s Office which expires on June 30.
The public defender contract called for the office to send one attorney to Meigs County one day per week, with the Common Pleas Indigent Budget of $75,000 picking up the remaining cost.
Under the new plan, there would be four attorneys per week to handle all of the cases.
Numbers presented by Jagers indicate that moving away from the contract with the Public Defender’s Office could save approximately $72,696 annually. Commissioner Tim Ihle stated that the contract renewal which had been presented by the Public Defender’s Office called for an approximately 40 percent increase from the previous year.
Per the numbers provided by Jagers, for a total of 180 common pleas cases per year (an average number), the average attorney cost per case if $583. That would be a cost of $104,940. Jagers asked that an additional $20,000 be budgeted in the event that there are additional cases and therefore attorneys needed.
In addition, there is a $36,000 per year contract with attorney Charles Knight for representation of indigent individuals in county court and probate/juvenile court. Jagers estimated that if individual attorneys were appointed to the cases in the courts the expenses could reach $100,000. In addition, the court would likely not run as efficiently as it does currently, due to the accommodation of various schedules for numerous attorneys, Jagers noted.
Jagers stated that all parties involved in the current county and juvenile court contract wish to continue as things are. This was emphasized by Probate/Juvenile Judge Scott Powell who was in attendance at the meeting. Commissioners Smith stated that County Court Judge Steve Story wished to continue the contract with Knight as well.
With the total cost for representation in the three courts as presented totaling $160,940, the county receives a 40 percent reimbursement from the state for representation of indigent defendants. That takes the amount to $96,564, minus the $75,000 common pleas court indigent budget which is used each year, in addition to the public defender contract, and the cost to the county for the new plan would be $21,564.
The cost of the public defender contract renewal as presented (after reimbursement) would have been $94,260.
This is a savings of $72,696 annually under the new plan.
The Public Defender’s Office has been notified as the change, stated Jagers, and will be finishing up any cases which they have been appointed to cover.
In other business, the commissioners heard from John Haseley who answered questions regarding the application to be filed by Ohio Therapeutics LLC for a possible marijuana grow facility in the Racine area.
Haseley stated that Racine Village Council and the Sutton Twp. Trustees have each unanimously approved a resolution in support of the application, with the commissioners asked to consider the same.
Smith stated that the commissioners would like to table the consideration of the resolution until next week’s regular meeting, in favor of having all three commissioners present for the action. Commissioner Mike Bartrum was absent from Thursday’s meeting for a previously scheduled trip.
Haseley stated that the application is to be filed on June 27. Letters of support from local entities, as well as the economic impact to the area could be two positives for the application stated Haseley.
The proposed facility would initially be 25,000 square feet, with expansion to 75,000 square feet at its maximum size. As the facility grows, so would the number of employees, beginning with around 30 and going up to a potential of 100. The hourly rate of pay for full-time positions would be approximately $15 per hours, with a few management positions at a higher pay rate.
Smith expressed concern with whether the presence of medical marijuana would lead to the legalization of recreational use, while agreeing that there is a valid medical component to it.
Haseley stated that the legislation passed by the state is some of the most restrictive and highly regulated in order to ensure that that door is not opened to recreational use. The medical use marijuana is not allowed to be smoked, but as a topical or ingested.
The resolution of support is expected to be voted on during Thursday’s regular meeting at 11 a.m.