The Hancock County commissioners on Thursday approved seeking a $50,000 federal grant to help the county reduce jail overcrowding.

The county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services agency is filing the application, which must be submitted by today, said Cayla Fortman, a coordinator for the agency. The grant would be effective in October and funds would be available for 15 months.

Much of the jail overcrowding is caused by people arrested on drug charges, or who have mental health issues, county personnel have said.

If the grant is approved, a strategic plan to reduce the jail population would be developed, Fortman said. She said the plan would look at who ends up in jail the most and find ways to divert them before they end up behind bars.

She said there would be no financial requirement for the county, and no additional personnel would be needed.

In a related issue, Commissioner Brian Robertson attended a meeting of the county Public Defender’s Commission where there was discussion about local prisoners being held in other jails because of overcrowding. Such conditions make it hard for attorneys to meet with their clients.

Separately, the state has reduced its reimbursement to the public defender’s office by 3 percent, Commissioner Mark Gazarek said.

Robertson suggested the commissioners meet with various county departments now about their expenses for the remainder of the year, especially in non-mandated areas, in anticipation of budget hearings this fall. He said he did not want departments to have “any surprises” with next year’s budgets.

Commissioner Tim Bechtol said meetings with departments that use general fund money would be good. But Gazarek said he did not think public meetings would be necessary because the departments have been regularly apprised of the county’s financial situation.

Robertson said the issue will be taken “under advisement” during the next week.

Separately, the commissioners approved an emergency resolution to contract with All-Star Plumbing and Heating, Findlay, for replacement of an air conditioner at the county Bureau of Motor Vehicles building on Hancock County 140. The unit is not working properly and with temperatures expected in the 90s in the next few days, it is imperative the work gets done as soon as possible, officials said. The cost will be $13,750.

Also, the commissioners approved a resolution about the proposed vacation of Fairgreen Drive in the Ridgeway Addition in Liberty Township.

There will be a viewing at the county engineer’s assembly room at 11 a.m. July 12 and a hearing about the issue at 1:30 p.m. the same day and location.

Maurer: 419-427-8420
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