Area court expanding probation program

CADIZ – Common Pleas Judge T. Shawn Hervey announced to the Harrison County commissioners Wednesday the court is expanding its adult probation program to include additional community service.

The judge explained that under the current system persons sentenced to perform community service are confined to the courthouse and supervised by county employees not associated with the probation department, courts or law enforcement.

“There is only so much work in the courthouse and we felt that the villages, townships and other sites in the county would benefit from the expansion,” the judge added. “The SMART Ohio grant funds allowed us the opportunity to expand services to site specific projects in our communities.

“Our goals are to promote public safety by making participants stakeholders in the community and enrich communities by performing meaningful service,” Hervey said. “With the passage of House Bill 86 a few years ago, we have changed the rules for sentencing and have quite a backlog of community service hours in the county.”

The House bill was designed to reduce recidivism by increasing rehabilitative treatment, improving education and teaching employment skills to low-level, non-violent offenders, according to officials.

“Through changes in sentencing for low-level, non-violent crimes, the changes are meant to divert criminals away from the prison system and into programs that are designed to integrate them as productive citizens,” the judge said, noting the change has increased the amount of community service hours.

“All felony IV and V convictions are probation eligible and the bill specifies that if they wish to perform community service in lieu of paying court costs and fees, they can request that option,” he said.

The judge asked the commissioners’ approval to hire Paul Howell, a part-time officer on the Cadiz police force for the position.

“Auditor Patrick Moore told the court that we could not hire a full-time county law enforcement employee because it would constitute overtime to supervise the probation community service. We asked the part-time deputies at the sheriff’s department and had no applicants, so we approached the Cadiz PD.”

“The officer will be responsible for transporting the probation workers to the site and supervise them while they are working, but will not supervise their job, that is up to the village or other personnel, they are responsible for the work supervision. This position is 100 percent funded through the SMART grant.”

The board approved an agreement between the Department of Job and Family Services and Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland for Soft Skills training. The training program is a new requirement for the Summer Youth program and will be taught by instructors from the Steubenville Goodwill and take place at the DJFS offices.

Goodwill’s Soft Skills training focuses on getting participants “job ready” by improving the skills, abilities and traits that pertain to personality, attitude and behavior.

The DJFS is taking applications for students interested in participating and seeking employers for the fully funded program that covers 100 percent of the wages up to $10 per hour.

Doug Crabtree announced the new access road for the M3 Midstream’s natural gas fractionation plant in Scio will open to commercial truck traffic only this week. Designated as county Road 80, the county sprayed dust control on the road Monday and anticipated truck traffic to begin today. Crabtree said he would submit a plat map to the commissioners next week so the road could be dedicated for public use and county maintenance.

Mike Bennett, a resident of Tappan Hills Road, addressed the board about repairs and repaving for county Road 39. Bennett commended the board on its quick response to his visit last August but was still waiting for action to be taken.

Commissioner Don Bethel reminded Bennett the board could only influence the engineer’s office and has no direct authority over any road repairs or paving. Crabtree explained the road work had been submitted to the state for Issue 1 funding but did not meet requirements. The paving plans for 2014 still are being scheduled, but Crabtree was not sure if county Road 39 was on the list. Some discussion was brought forth that the best course of action for the present would be to revert the road to a gravel surface. Bennett registered his disapproval for that option.

The board also issued a proclamation designating this week as EMS Week.

In related business, the board approved two new line items for the EMS account adding $100,000 for Volunteer Assistance and Back Up Services. “This funding is per the agreement that we would reimburse volunteers for training costs and to pay for the hospital EMS service costs incurred to date.”

The Harrison Central softball team was congratulated for its sectional championship.

The board joined Crabtree in asking that everyone consider attending Memorial Day graveside services on Monday and take a moment to remember and honor all of our servicemen and servicewomen who have sacrificed.