POMEROY — After months of preparation, Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood formally submitted a letter to the commissioners on Thursday morning requesting the placement of a 2.95 mill levy, with the intent to sell bonds, on the November general election ballot.
Wood’s request to the commissioners comes approximately six months after his initial request to have the levy on the May ballot.
As is procedure, the commissioners acknowledged the letter and the request, which is to then be forwarded on the the Meigs County Auditor’s Office for certification of the tax values.
Once the values are returned, the commissioners will take action on the ballot language which would then be sent to the board of elections to be approved for ballot placement.
This is the second time that the county has been through this process, with the levy proposal for the May ballot being halted by the board of elections due to not being on the proper form and language that did not meet requirements.
Since that time, the sheriff, commissioners and others have taken steps to ensure that the filing follows the proper procedures and meets the guidelines set forth, working with a bond attorney.
Now, the request has been made for a 2.95 mill levy, including a provision to sell bonds.
With the type action under consideration, the action would have been required to appear in two places on the ballot, meaning that there was a possibility of the levy passing and the bond issue failing, or vice versa. This had been the case in one county previously according to the commissioners.
With an action recently approved by Ohio legislators, and awaiting the signature of Gov. John Kasich, the levy, including a provision to sell bonds, it would only be required to appear once.
The funds from the levy would be used for demolition, new construction, furnishings and operations of the proposed Meigs County Sheriff’s Administrative Office and Correctional Facility.
The proposed 71-bed facility would be located at the site of the former Veterans Memorial Hospital. According to previous Sentinel reports, the former hospital would be torn down to make space for the facility to be constructed.
“A little over four years ago, when I was bestowed the honor and privilege of protecting and serving the citizens of Meigs County, I came into the office with several goals to make our county safer through the efforts to offer more training, equipment, school resource officers, a canine unit and expansion of our housing facility,” stated Wood in the letter.
Since taking office in January 2013, many of those goals have come to fruition, including the addition of school resource officers and a canine unit.
“The construction of a larger facility will mean our deputies will no longer be out of the county transporting inmates to distant incarceration facilities, leaving us short staffed, and our budget strained and stretched to the point of breaking,” stated Wood in the letter.
In 2016 alone, deputies traveled more than 20,000 miles to transport inmates to outside facilities.
The current jail facility in the sheriff’s office 121 year old building holds five inmates. The remainder of those being held by the county must be transported to one of the 10 facilities across the state where Meigs County houses prisoners.
There is the time and distance involved in the transports which takes deputies out of the county, but there is also the financial impact of outside housing.
More than $300,000 was spent in 2016 for the costs of food, medical needs and housing of prisoners at the outside facilities. Outside housing, depending on the facility, costs $60-75 per day for each inmate housed.
“This money could stay local and create jobs here in our community, leading to more money put back into the community thereby helping to sustain our local businesses,” stated Wood.
In addition, the larger facility would allow for the county to contract with outside agencies to house prisoners in the Meigs County facility. This could generate revenue for the county.
Sheriff Wood stated that State Rep. Jay Edwards is looking into whether there are state funds that may be used to assist with the project moving forward.
Action by the commissioners is expected to take place at an upcoming meeting.
The deadline for the November election is Aug. 9.
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