Warren County’s $50 million-plus jail and sheriff’s office opening will be delayed at least two months and two tournaments expected to open the county’s new sports complex and bring in more than $20 million in economic impact will be held in other states.
Discussion of these losses, along with a call for legal action against the state over inaction so far on reopening Kings Island and other local tourism attractions, punctuated Tuesday’s meeting of the Warren County Board of Commissioners.
Via teleconference, the county’s commissioners and sheriff blasted the lack of a decision by the state enabling these openings to occur. The discussion occurred when talking with the jail contractor about who should pay for the delay and additional costs.
The commissioners indicated they were unlikely to sue the state over delays in reopening tourism and other businesses closed to control the spread of COVID-19, but would be contacting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to express their anger at the effects on the community due to the “complete lockdown on tourism”.
“We’ve been consistently right for some time when it comes to this matter,” Commissioner Dave Young said, noting coronavirus case numbers and the fact no emergency was declared in Warren County, as sought by county health officials here and around the state to prevent the virus’ spread.
A 20th death from COVID-19 was reported Monday in Warren County. There have been 340 cases and 47 hospitalizations in the county since the beginning of the outbreak, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
So far, 15 of 20 deaths were 70 or older. However one was 20 to 29 years old, the other four 40 to 59 years old, according to the state reporting.
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The decision to call DeWine and send him a letter emphasizing the county’s position came out of a discussion begun over a letter sent by Deerfield Twp. urging the commissioners to press the state to open tourism attractions.
“This is just going to prolong the agony,” Deerfield Twp. Trustee Lelle Lutts Hedding said during the teleconference meeting. “Warren County is not sick.”
Hedding and other officials pointed to national and countywide case data, showing a leveling off and low incidence of death, except for the elderly.
“It is part of life,” Sheriff Larry Sims said. “It doesn’t make their lives any less important.”
Before this, the commissioners sent Jason Woehrle, manager of the jail project for Granger Construction, back for more information after his presentation calculating $258,578, including $155,292 for general contractor salaries, as the added cost of finishing the jail two months later than projected.
The project was declared essential, but work slowed, due to masons failing to report for work, although precautions were taken, Woehrle said. This slowed other progress on the new jail in Lebanon.
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“The reality is I will have to staff this job site for two more months,” he said. “No one foresaw a pandemic.”
Also the county could press Granger for $180,000 due under the contract if the project lasts another two months.
“We are not trying to play hardball,” Commissioner Dave Young said. “Is it our job to make sure you make the same gross margin on this job?”
A lacrosse and a soccer tournament, among the first to be held at the Warren County Sports Park at Union Village, were moved due to uncertainty about when contact sporting events would be permitted in Ohio, Deputy Administrator Martin Russell said.
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“Some of these tournaments had to make decisions based on timing,” Russell said.
Russell said the projected economic impact from the soccer tournament alone was $24 million, according to Phil Smith, director of the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Time is of the essence now. A lot of damage has already been done,” Sims said.