A LETTER FROM BOARD PRESIDENT ERICA C. CRAWLEY
Hello, and welcome to the September edition of our Commissioner Connection newsletter. This summer has flown by as my colleagues and I have been working hard to ensure that our county government is working to meet the needs of every resident. We want to make sure that everyone has the tools and resources they need to thrive during what continues to be a difficult time for many of us.
As we have for the past two years, we continue to work with our public health partners, including Franklin County Public Health, to ensure that residents have access to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as our Office on Aging, to ensure our senior residents have access to in-home vaccines. We have resources for residents who are struggling with rent and utilities and grants to help small businesses recover. Our county has created an entire website for you to learn about how we’re using funds from the American Rescue Plan to help the community recover.
One of the projects I’m proudest of this year is the Franklin County RISE program,which helps make high quality childcare affordable for Franklin County families and provides support to our childcare providers. We were excited to share this initiative, and other significant county accomplishments, with county commissioners from around the nation during the annual National Association of Counties (NACo) conference. NACo is a great way for us to learn from our colleagues and to make sure that county priorities are being heard in Washington D.C.
This newsletter is great way for you to keep up with everything happening in your county government. In the coming pages, you will learn about an exciting new jobs program called County Futures, an initiative to provide business clothes for job-seekers, the sheriff’s deputies new body cameras, and the opening of our community’s new jail.
You can also learn more about your county government through our annual State of the County report, and by following the commissioners’ office on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
As always, please feel free to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns you may have. I look forward to meeting you in the community later this summer and fall!
Commissioner Erica C. Crawley
COMMISSIONERS’ JOBS INITIATIVE PREPARES RESIDENTS FOR BRIGHT FUTURES IN FRANKLIN COUNTY
A new program the commissioners have created is already working to prepare lower-income workers for new middle-class careers working for the residents of Franklin County. The new initiative, called County Futures, is a partnership with the Columbus Urban League that will provide participants with both training and support, and then job placement services. It follows the successful model first seen in the commissioners’ innovative Building Futures and Driving Futures programs, which prepare and place students in the skilled building trades and truck driving careers. These programs recognize the many barriers that residents may face when looking to advance their career, and aims to address those even as they work to prepare the students for a new kind of job.
Like many workplaces around the country, Franklin County has struggled recently to fill all of its open positions while at the same time, many residents are working hard but lack the resources they need to make the jump to a well-paid career. County Futures will identify a diverse group of talented job-seekers who may be a good fit for careers in county government. The students will get several weeks of general workplace training followed by several weeks of training more specific to jobs that are available throughout the county workplace. All the while, the commissioners’ Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will work alongside other county agencies to provide supports for the students such as with transportation and childcare. Upon completion of the program, the graduates will be fast-tracked into the county’s hiring processes.To learn more about County Futures, visit CCOHF.org.
HELPING MEN PREPARE FOR INTERVIEWS, CAREERS, AND MORE
Otto Beatty was a fixture in Central Ohio and served for nearly 20 years in the Ohio House of Representatives. He was a community leader and a quiet mentor to many, and when he passed away in May at the age of 81, Mr. Beatty left behind several closets’ worth of stylish business attire.
Mr. Beatty always felt that looking good made a person feel good and gave them confidence, and he wanted everyone to feel that way even if they couldn’t always afford stylish clothes. When he passed away, his wife, U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty, donated his clothes to Impact Community Action, which put together a proposal to create a community closet for men who need nice clothes to wear to job interviews or at work. The commissioners funded that proposal and were on-hand this spring to help open the Otto Beatty Jr. Men’s Shop.
The shop not only provides clothes, but the staff of Impact Community Action will also work with men in need as they work to recover in the pandemic economy, providing wraparound services to address other barriers they may be facing, as well as workforce development training, support for entrepreneurs, and more. More information about the Otto Beatty Jr. Men’s Shop and Impact Community Action is available at ImpactCA.org.
NEW COUNTY JAIL DESIGNED FOR NEW ERA IN REHABILITATION
Operating a jail isn’t the most exciting or glamorous part of being a county commissioner, but it is one of the most important things that a county does. It’s important that the justice system runs smoothly, but that’s just the bare minimum that we expect from our jail. If it’s done right, the county jail can also be an opportunity to help people who are in crisis and to see that they have the tools they need to succeed when they’re released. That’s what we’ve kept in mind throughout the process to design, build, and operate Franklin County’s new jail on Fisher Road on the west side of our community.
A well-designed jail facility can be a tool for us to use the principles of Smart Justice to provide an equitable place for people to be incarcerated that is safer both for inmates and staff, and where resources are available to help people. Most of the people in jail haven’t been convicted of anything, and nearly all of them will be rejoining our community soon, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to see that they and their families have got the tools they need to succeed when they get out so that they don’t return to jail.
The new jail incorporates a new philosophy of Strategic Inmate Management, which combines physical design features with a comprehensive approach to managing inmate populations on proven behavior models. It’s a gender-responsive, trauma-informed model in which the deputies share the space with the inmates, interacting with them directly rather than simply shutting them away.The new facility also includes dedicated addiction and mental health crisis intervention centers, and each living space includes dedicated areas for recreation and for medical or other professional visits.
The new jail is nearly 430,000 square feet and has 864 beds with an additional 426 beds to be added next year. The facility covers about four acres of land and incorporates almost two miles of plumbing. You can learn more about the new jail and the new philosophies for its operation here.
CELEBRATING A COMMISSIONER’S LEGACY IN BRICKS AND MORTAR
In June, the commissioners rededicated one of the buildings in the county government complex at 369 S. High Street in memory of one of our county’s longest-serving commissioners, Michael J. Dorrian. Commissioner Dorrian served four terms on the board from 1969 through 1984, providing compassionate and competent leadership, and leaving a legacy of ideas, programs, and tangible benefits. He was part of the effort to consolidate some city and county courts, improve county infrastructure, and bring the Columbus Clippers back to Central Ohio.
For many years, the park across the street from most of the county buildings at the corner of Mound and High Streets has been named after Commissioner Dorrian. It’s provided a quiet and shady spot for county employees to eat their lunches, for people waiting for a bus to get out of the sun, and for downtown visitors to rest in between their errands. That space is part of what will eventually become a new municipal courthouse, however, and it was important to the current board of commissioners to continue to recognize the achievements and lasting legacy of one of our community’s most dedicated public servants.
The rededicated Michael J. Dorrian Building was constructed during his time on the board of commissioners, and was originally called the Franklin County Hall of Justice before being renamed as the county Judicial Services Building following extensive renovations.Today, the building is home to the commissioners’ hearing room where they hold their weekly General Session meetings as well as the county law library and the adult probation department, among other county offices.
SHERIFF’S OFFICE BODY CAMERAS TO BRING TRANSPARENCY TO POLICING
This year, for the first time ever, Franklin County’s 565 deputy sheriffs will be wearing body cameras to document their work and service in the community. The commissioners approved the purchase of the cameras in February, as well as a policy for their use that the sheriff’s office has adopted. The cameras will add transparency to what can be a complicated and difficult occupation, as well as providing evidence in criminal cases, ongoing training opportunities for deputies, and accountability.
The cameras are the Motorola Watchguard V300 model with a 4K video sensor, 1080p resolution, dual microphones, and built-in WiFi and GPS. They work in conjunction with the cameras that are already in county patrol cars, and the footage they capture will be stored and accessible to the public according to the county’s regular records retention policy and Ohio public records law.
The commissioners and sheriff have been holding public townhall meetings to introduce the cameras and the new policy to the public. A recording of one of those meetings is available here, and then next one will be held at the Columbus Downtown High School at 364 S. 4th Street at 5:30 p.m. on September 12th. The meeting is open to the public and will also be streamed live on the commissioners’ Facebook page.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s office has jurisdiction in the entirety of Franklin County, including patrolling 261 miles of roads and operating the county’s jail facilities. Scan the QR code to the right for more information about the body cameras and townhall meetings.