The Highland County Board of Commissioners decided Wednesday not to opt in to a grant program offered by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction after some local justice system officials expressed concerns as to whether or not the program would be beneficial to the county.
The Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison grant program became available from the ODRC after an amendment in the state budget bill passed earlier this year introducing prison sentence restrictions on the top ten most populous counties in the state, according to Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss.
According to the Ohio Judicial Conference, beginning July 1, 2018, the mandated counties will be prohibited from sending fifth-degree felony offenders to prison if the sentence is one year or less, with the exception of drug trafficking, violent or sex offenses.
In exchange for the sentencing limitations, those counties receive TCAP grant funding to cover incarceration costs in local jails and alternative sentence options such as drug treatment programs based on a weighted formula, according to the OJC.
The mandated counties are required to participate in TCAP, and participation is voluntary for the remaining counties.
Coss attended the commissioners meeting with Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins and Highland County Probation Department Director Jeremy Ratcliff to make a determination on whether not to opt in to the TCAP grant program.
Coss told the commissioners he feels the ODRC has inaccurate data, and consequentially cannot provide enough funding to Highland County to make participation worth the sentencing limitations, which Coss also said undermine judges’ authority.
“And financially, I don’t think it benefits us,” he said.
Ratliff said he didn’t “have a dog in the fight,” and if the probation department doesn’t get funding from the TCAP grant, it will get it elsewhere.
Collins said she wants the county to have funding for more treatment options, but she doesn’t feel as though the ODRC has the full picture, especially when it comes to more complicated cases.
After lengthy discussion, board of commissioners president Shane Wilkin and commissioners Terry Britton and Jeff Duncan, who would have had to submit a memorandum of understanding to the state in order to participate in the program, concurred that no action should be taken on the matter.
In other business, Highland County Visitors Bureau Director Destiny Bryson said McClain High School has officially thrown down the gauntlet in an obstacle course and canoe race at the upcoming Smokin’ in the Hills barbecue cookoff at the East End Overlook at the lake.
In a written statement, McClain Principal Jason Potts challenged the four other Highland County school districts to square off against the Tigers in the Patriot Challenge at Rocky Fork Lake in September.
McClain has registered three teams already, and Potts said the other school districts should follow suit.
“On behalf of our three teams and the entire student body at Edward Lee McClain High School, I would like to challenge Hillsboro City Schools, Bright Local School District, Fairfield Local Schools and Lynchburg-Clay Local School District to also register three teams to participate in this event to support our community and be a part of making this a great first year for an annual event.”
Bryson said if the county’s schools collectively reach a total of 15 teams, a special traveling trophy will be awarded to the school with the highest cumulative team score.
The Patriot Challenge will include a half-mile run to the canoe launch, a 0.7-mile canoe race around the small island on Rocky Fork Lake, then an obstacle course. The course will include a low crawl, push-ups, tractor-tire flip, progressive shuffle run, sit-ups and a sandbag carry, according to Bryson.
The estimated total time of the race is approximately 45 minutes.
The Ohio State Parks Department will supply canoes and life jackets.
Bryson thanked Shawn Carter of Active Heroes for his hard work in putting together the obstacles, as well as the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association for volunteering their time to man the course.
On Friday, Sept. 22, the Eyes of Freedom Traveling Memorial and the R+L Hometown Showcase will leave R+L headquarters in Wilmington at 5:30 p.m., come down High Street through uptown Hillsboro with an escort, then head down State Route 124 to the event site with an estimated time of arrival at 6:30 p.m.
The public is invited to watch the escort.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, Smokin’ in the Hills will kick off with the Patriot Challenge at 8 a.m. with an awards ceremony at 11 a.m.
At 9 a.m., registration for the Butch Stroop Memorial Run motorcycle ride will begin. Kickstands go up at 11 a.m. The ride will return to the event site around 1 p.m.
Military displays will be set up during the day from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Food and drink booths and the beer garden will open at 11 a.m. Pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw and chips will be served by Highland County Senior Center staff for $7 per plate for $5 per sandwich. Sales are cash only.
Barbecue teams will work hard to prepare their competition meats to turn in every half hour from noon-1:30 p.m.
The winning teams will be presented with prize money and awards at 4 p.m.
R+L Carriers Hometown Showcase will provide music and entertainment throughout the day. Admission is free.
The Ohio Civil Air Patrol will handle parking on site, and Southern State Community College will provide a shuttle bus from parking areas to the event center.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.