Township left with the bills for jail’s false alarms

LISBON — Center Township trustees are arranging a meeting with Columbiana County Jail officials and the Lisbon Fire Department to discuss what can be done about the number of false alarms at the jail.

For years, inmates have regularly broken sprinkler heads or pulled fire alarms, and each time the fire department sends firefighters and a truck, which can cost $1,000 or more per run, depending on how many firefighters respond.

Trustee Greg Shive reported at this meeting he spoke with county commissioners, who contract with a private company to run the jail, and they suggested scheduling a meeting with all of the relevant parties to discuss what can be done.

The fire department serves not only Lisbon but Center and Elkrun townships, with the three splitting most costs. The jail is in Center Township, however, so the trustees are responsible for paying for fire runs within their jurisdiction.

Shive said the false alarm are starting to add up. “Just this week they were out there two times,” he said

Fire Chief Paul Gresh Jr. was contacted after the meeting, and he said until this spring the fire department billed the jail, which would seek compensation by charging the inmate and seeking restitution. But earlier this year an assistant county prosecutor told a fire official they could no longer bill the jail because the fire department is a government agency, while another assistant prosecutor gave a completely different opinion.

False alarms have historically accounted for a significant number of the fire department’s calls, especially within the village because of the number of government buildings and residential treatment facilities there. Gresh said most of those building’s problems have been corrected, but the jail persists and appears to be getting worse.

“There was one week we were out there five times,” he said. “Somebody’s got to clamp down on this because it is costing the taxpayers every time a fire truck leaves.”

In other action, a study performed on behalf of the trustees by a contractor used by the county engineer’s office has determined speed reductions are needed on Saltwell Road. The study was requested by trustee Ken Schreffler because the limit is currently 55 mph, which he believes is excessive.

The consulting firm has recommended the speed limit be reduced to 35 mph from Thomas Road to St. Jacob-Logtown Road and to 40 mph from Thomas Road to state Route 45. This will now be forwarded to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which has the final say.

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