LOGAN — The Hocking County Prosecutor’s Office has already received 114 felony criminal cases alone this year. In response to having such a big caseload, the Hocking County Commissioners voted on Tuesday to allow the office to hire a part-time employee.
Beginning in 2002 the amount of felony criminal cases the prosecutors office handled was 167, ten years later, the number jumped to 255. In 2017, the case number was at 211; 2018 had 300, and so far this year there have been 114 cases. If this rate continues, the office estimates there will be 427 felony criminal cases that come through its door.
In order to keep up with the caseload the office receives, Hocking County Prosecutor Benjamin Fickel, has requested $23,370 to hire a part-time employee.
“If we don’t come up with $23,000 and then there’s cases that because they don’t have enough help they can’t get everything done, well then if we lose cases and something happens, who’s to blame? The commissioners,” Commissioner Sandra Ogle stated.
“We have to do something. They’re already dismissing cases,” agreed Commissioner Jeff Dickerson.
In other news, on the agenda for Tuesday’s commissioner’s meeting was David Glass, representative for the Lieutenant Governor, Jon Husted.
Glass came to offer himself as a liaison or resource to the commissioners to allow a good working relationship between the state and county to form.
After providing the commissioners with what his role entails, Ogle asked if he could pass word along with a concern of the commissioners regarding the intersection of U.S. 33 and state Route 374, where the Hocking Hills Market is located. Ogle noted how dangerous it is when entering and exiting the market.
“Is there anyway you could convince ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) to do something there? I know they’ve done a lot of studies, but there needs to be something done there for the safety of people, and also it’s costing the business owners money because a lot of people are afraid to come out there,” mentioned Ogle.
Glass stated he would do what he could to relay the information and find something out. Commissioner Gary Waugh also asked if Glass feels the relationship between the state and county would improve with the new administration. Glass responded saying that he hopes his presence there helps relay that he is willing and wants to create a good working relationship between the state and county.
The discussion of ways to help Southeastern Ohio counties improve financially continued. The commissioners communicated how thankful they were for the residents of Hocking County to pass the Hocking County Children Services levy last fall, however, the residents are strapped for funds as well.
Ogle added, “I honestly believe sir, that if something is not done to help counties like ours and different southeastern counties, then they’re going to go broke. If they don’t go broke, then they’re going to cut out so many services that the counties are going to be in terrible shape.”
“I just want to stress, as I said, my coming here is not because I need to tell somebody I was here or that I just felt like coming along, it’s to establish a working relationship and to move forward,” concluded Glass.
In general business, Good Hope Township submitted a request to close a road that’s becoming costly to maintain. Cemetery Road, Township Road 125 off of Township Road 126, has become disrepair and no one lives along the road. Although, the township has tried to do this in the past; however, because it runs to Fairfield County they decided against it.
“I think the letter from Bill (Shaw, Hocking County Engineer) says, maybe they can work up an agreement where Metro Park would keep it up, maintain it, but it would still be the owners of Hocking County,” commented Ogle.
All three commissioners decided to table the request and wait to make a decision. They want to ideally talk with all the parties involved such as Clear Creek Metro Park, the Good Hope Township Trustees, Hocking County Engineer and Fairfield County Commissioners to ensure they don’t create any waves.
The Hocking County Sheriff’s Office also submitted a request for an appropriation of funds to provide to D.S. Architecture for the former Hocking Correctional Facility project taking place in Nelsonville.
The architecture firm, located in northeast Ohio, has gone without pay because the county has been patiently waiting for funding from the state. Last week, HCSO Major Caleb Moritz and Chief Deputy Dave Valkinburg communicated the firm’s concern of not being able to continue work unless they see payment.
Moritz estimated the firm has a little over 3,000 man-hours into the project. He and Valkinburg also relayed that in order to set up policies and procedures for the facility, HCSO will need $3,686 to set up a policy management software called Lexipol, LLC, before plans can be approved by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
All three commissioners voted to appropriate funds for Lexipol fees and the payment to the architecture firm, which had a total of $18,686.
In other general business, Mary Jeanne Goss was appointed to the Logan- Hocking County District Library board of trustees.