GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Commissioners looked back on the challenges of 2019 as well as the coming future in 2020 during their regularly scheduled Thursday meeting at the Gallia Courthouse.
Commissioner Harold Montgomery was named president by the board of commissioners and Commissioner David Smith was named vice president.
“We (recently) obtained four (Gallipolis Developmental Center) cottages and we’re looking forward to putting some jobs there,” said Montgomery. “We’re always looking to the future of the economic development of the county and to bring more jobs here.”
Montgomery said commissioners are hoping to bring an organization this year to occupy the structures which are reportedly built to potentially handle physical and behavioral health needs. The cottages were obtained for the cost of a dollar.
“Last year had its challenges,” said Montgomery. “We still have a tight budget as we try to build a new jail and continue to see less funds from the state.”
“Coming 2020 will be tough,” said Smith. “With the cut of the MCO sales tax (due to state decisions), this year will a defining one.”
Commissioner Brent Saunders said that county health insurance coverage costs had increased nearly 24 percent in the past year.
Montgomery said a quarter of a percent sales tax increase approved by commissioners in January 2019 was meant to assist in the construction of a new jail and funds were to flow to the general fund so that they might also be used for the assistance of other county agencies if needed.
Commissioners in the past have said criminal justice issues make over 50 percent of the county’s expenses. Revenue taken in by the county was roughly $10.5 million in 2019, according to County Administrator Karen Sprague.
The new Gallia Jail is estimated to cost between $10 million and $15 million.
“As we build a new jail, it will likely be one of our biggest concerns of the coming year,” said Smith.
“We’re in the design phase now, but we’re hoping to break ground in September 2020,” said Montgomery. “It’s looking like it may be a 15-month construction.”
Commissioners said they have been in talks to bring a new jail to Gallia for over a year due to concerns with the age of the current facility, the opioid epidemic and inmate overcrowding. The current jail has been the subject of controversy in recent months after reports of escapes, inmate deaths and structural concerns.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.