The former Pike County Jail was torn down in September 2009 after being closed in 2004.

COLUMBUS– Legislation passed in the Ohio House of Representatives earlier this week that could have major implications for Pike County’s attempt in bringing back a county jail.

In a near unanimous vote, House Bill 101 will move to the Senate for consideration following a 93-2 vote on Wednesday. Among the supporters and co-sponsors was Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro, who represents Pike County in the Ohio General Assembly.

The bill creates a funding equation similar to the state-backed school construction over the past two decades which places more impoverished counties, such as Pike County, towards the front of the line.

News of the bill passing the House was to the support of Pike County Commissioner Jerry Miller, but he hopes it is just a start.

‘We’re encouraged by the Ohio House’s passage of HB101, we’re hopeful the Senate follows suit and approves of this important issue,” he said in a released statement. “Pike County is overdue and will aggressively pursue any solution that helps resolve the problems created by the lack of a jail in Pike County.”

The county has been without a jail following the demolition of the former facility in 2004 and has since sent inmates to nearby jails in Scioto and Fayette counties and further away ones such as Butler County.

Sending inmates outside the county, Commissioner Tony Montgomery said previously, has not been the most efficient solution for the Pike County Sheriff’s Office. The drive to the Butler County Jail in Hamilton is four hours round trip.

Joining Miller in support is The County Commissioners Association of Ohio, who refers to the legislation as one of the state counties’ “most urgent needs.”

“Counties provide the foundation for the administration of the justice system in Ohio,” said CCAO President Tim Bubb in a released statement. “This funding mechanism will help allocate future state investments into county jail construction and renovation to help counties provide safe and secure jail facilities, which ultimately promotes public safety.”

CCAO added state funding is especially needed in these cases to keep county jails up-to-date.

“CCAO has expressed concern that in many instances, county jails are unable to adequately perform their mission within the criminal justice system due to their age and structural conditions,” the organization said in a press release. “State capital funding for county jail construction and renovation, therefore, is a major priority for counties.”

According to the office of Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, guidelines for the program would be developed by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, in consultation with county sheriffs and commissioners. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission also runs the state’s school facilities program.

Under the bill, counties would be ranked every other year, based on local property tax values and estimated taxable retail sales in each county. The lowest ranked counties would be given first priority, with the number of counties invited to apply each year based on how much funding is available.

The legislation approved does not include funding for the program, but the goal is to get the program into law in time for the state’s two-year construction budget, which is expected to be debated next year.

Contact Patrick Keck at pkeck@newswatchman.com or by phone at 740-947-2149, ext. 300431 and follow him on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

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