Jail Commission Able To Move Forward With Roof Project

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State legislation approved this week makes it possible for Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail in Nelsonville to move forward with a much-needed roof repair.

The legislation allows Ohio’s regional jail commissions to borrow money for capital improvements. It was approved by the Ohio Senate unanimously at the end of October, and the House approved it last week by a 95-0 vote, according to State Sen. Lou Gentile, who said the Senate took the final step Monday in approving the bill.

The legislation was originally introduced by Gentile, a Democrat from Steubenville, and Republican Senator Troy Balderson of Zanesville. Between them they represent most of the counties that are members of the regional jail. Gentile represents most of Athens County, while Balderson’s district includes Trimble Twp.

Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, said the governor intends to sign the legislation, but as of Wednesday afternoon had not yet received it.

Warden Jeremy Tolson said if the jail commission moves forward with borrowing funds, the top priority will be repairing the roof.

“That’s probably the main item. It’s a pretty expensive project that we’ll have to address,” Tolson said.

He estimated the cost at between $200,000 and $300,000.

“I know they will move as quickly as they can to get the roof repaired properly,” said Garry Hunter, the commission’s attorney who testified in support of the legislation.

Bids for the roof work were taken about a year and half ago, and Hunter said a determination will need to be made on whether those bids will still be honored — although that is unlikely, due to the time that has passed. If not, the project will have to be rebid.

Hunter said the borrowing and bidding processes could move forward simultaneously.

However, the legislation did not contain an emergency clause, meaning it will not take effect until 90 days after the governor signs it.

Although money could not actually be borrowed until the 90 days pass, Hunter said the project could still move forward if money can be found in the jail budget that could later be reimbursed from a loan.

Another project that’s been mentioned, and for which borrowed money could potentially be utilized, is expansion of the jail to add more beds for female prisoners.

Tolson said there is a shortage of beds for female prisoners, and the jail has had to turn away prisoners from member counties because no beds were available.

“I think this is clearly something they have the ability to consider, now that the borrowing issue has been resolved,” Hunter said of the expansion project.

This month’s meeting of the jail commission has been canceled, so the April meeting will be the first opportunity since passage of the legislation for the commission as a group to discuss its plans, Hunter said.