County explores jail funding options

By Dean Wright - [email protected]

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Commissioners held their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday at the Gallia Courthouse where they met with representatives from Ohio Valley Bank to discuss potential financing options for a new county corrections facility.

“We basically have three options,” said Commissioner David Smith. “We’ve talked about going with (US Department of Agriculture Rural Development) for some financing here but the downside is that we would have to have some interim financing (for ongoing project costs). The second one was tax-free bonds…That’s where Gallia would sell these bonds on its own. The third option would be going to a local lending institution and seeing if they would be interested in financing in some way.”

Ohio Valley Bank’s Bryan Stepp said that it wasn’t uncommon for legal bond counsel representing institutions interested in financing a project to send out bid requests to financial institutions to bid on a specific type of bond amount and for the said institution to potentially buy all of it.

“We’re looking at potentially financing with bonds for the jail,” said Commissioner Harold Montgomery. “We’re looking at the initial offer, maybe around six or seven million dollars for the first year. The next year would be an additional amount to get to where we need (for full corrections construction project needs). In doing that, say there’s a six or $7 million bond, on day one, we’re going to start paying interest and on the principal also, which is about $400,000 a year. We’re doing discussions with OVB here to see if we might be able to do a short-term bond, maybe, and then only have to pay the interest as we use the money, not on the full amount. We’d take draw-downs on it. Then when we’re ready to go for construction, we can maybe roll that over to a larger bond and that can maybe help us from having to pay big numbers the first year.”

Commissioners have said a new correction’s facilities cost may be around $10 million to build as a 100-bed facility, but plans are still being discussed.

“As stewards of the county’s money,” said Smith. “We’re looking at different alternatives and financing options…We’ve used Rural Development as kind of a benchmark because we know (financing is) available. We know what their rates are and what their criteria is for this project…There’s pros and cons to selling those bonds….What Harold was alluding to is that we don’t have the ability to draw those down as we use them. You sell it and you’ve got all that money there. You don’t necessarily have to use it all at once, so during that time we would incur costs which we would prefer not to. That’s where we think the bank might be able to help us, should we choose that route. We’ve not decided which route yet…Next year, we’ll probably start making some commitments as far as contracts. We probably won’t get to construction next year, but we’ll be close.”

Gallia Commissioners have spoken with corrections facility architects mostly about an indirect podular remote design for a new Gallia Jail, similar to one situated in Fairfield County that reportedly houses around 120 inmate beds. Such a facility has a central monitoring security and control station to cut down on correction officer numbers and to allow for a maximum view of all inmate areas. Inmate areas circle the station, which would control all cell locks. Such areas include a ground floor series of cells along with an upper floor mezzanine area with more cells stacked atop the first. The central security station would monitor both sets of cells. Commissioners have said they are considering building a 100 to 120-bed facility.

The commissioners are potentially looking to build the jail in the general area of the parking lot northeast of the courthouse and across the street from the Gallipolis Justice Center.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.

By Dean Wright

[email protected]