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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio

Local Government

Jail body scanner now in use to detect contraband


By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Operational less than two weeks, the new body scanner for the Knox County Jail has not yet found any drug contraband on inmates entering the jail. It has discovered other items such as a hidden key and a coin in a pocket.

Sheriff Dave Shaffer told the commissioners Tuesday that all inmates underwent scanning when the equipment was installed. “Since then, all new arrests are being scanned,” he said, adding that the Ohio Administrative Code is specific on who is scanned and how, even to the point of stating where the inmate must stand on the equipment.

Inmates are advised that they will be scanned, and signs are posted alerting inmates that if contraband is discovered beyond a certain point, they will be charged with illegal conveyance. Inmates who leave the jail for a work release program or court appearance are re-scanned when they re-enter the jail.

The jail population stands at 78: 61 male and 17 female; three are federal prisoners. For April, the average daily population was 85 compared to 81 in March. There were 144 people booked in April compared to 163 in March. Jail staff served 7,739 meals in April. Juvenile transports January through mid-April totaled 45. “We have traveled over 4,000 miles on those transports,” Shaffer said.

The grant applications to help purchase cruisers and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) were denied; Shaffer said his office will pursue the UAV using its own funds. He anticipates other agencies to use the UAV as well; possible uses include searching for missing or wandering individuals, documenting crime scenes such as a suspect barricaded in a house, and accident reconstruction.

Shaffer also reported the computer upgrade is on schedule for June. Sheriff's personnel will go to Indianapolis for training.


MVFD overdose calls on the rise


By Dylan McCament, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON - The fire department is rising to the challenge of an increase of opioid overdose calls in 2017, according to MVFD Chief Chad Christopher.

Christopher said there has been a notable increase in the number of times the department has had to use the drug Narcan to combat such overdoses: 68 times in 2017, compared to 82 times for all of 2016. The drug was used 86 times in 2015.

"I think it's important to take into consideration that, in the past, we could use a lower dose of 2 milligrams," Christopher said. "Nowadays, a bad batch [of illegal drugs] comes into the county, and it might take 4 to 6 milligrams to get a response."

Christopher said the department purchases Narcan through an exchange program with KCH: a 2 milligram dose of the drug costs $33. People to whom Narcan is administered are billed if they have insurance, he said, and, in this way, some of the cost can be recovered. The chief added that department officials are currently seeking to enter into a state reimbursement program through which the department could be compensated $6 per 2 mg vial.

"It's no different from when we have to out and give Dextrose for a diabetic call," he said. "Or all the the drugs that we use for someone having a cardiac incident. All of those drugs have a cost."

He said, at this point, the increase in opioid-related overdose calls are not putting a strain on the department, adding that, if this trend continues, eventually it will. Christopher said overdose calls often require extra manpower.

"With a lot of these people, when they are unconscious, you have to get them removed from the home, which is not an easy task. You have get all the vital signs you have to get an I.V. established. On some of them you have to control the airway and then administer the drug," Christopher said. "Sometimes, when they wake up, they're not that happy with us. Sometimes they are combative."

He said there are times that, despite all the best efforts, EMTs are not able to revive a person who is overdosing, even with Narcan. The chief added that EMTs have had to administer Narcan to the same individual more than once.

"When it is one of the times when we are able to revive them, hopefully they can seek help and change their life around," Christopher said.

"There is that word out there on the street, 'if these people are overdosing, why are we saving them?' " the chief said. "We treat these calls as they come in. That's not my job to decide when I'm gonna give somebody Narcan or not. In our minds, it's still a human being.

Christopher said that officials from the department, local law enforcement agencies, Knox Community, the Knox County Health Department and Behavioral Healthcare Partners of Central Ohio are all working together to develop a plan to combat the problem of opioid addiction in the local community. He added that the plan would include reaching out to individuals who have been revived with Narcan as soon as they are discharged from the hospital and providing avenues for help and recovery.

"I think we have good plans that will come out in the future," Christopher said.
He added that he feels that a lot of good information about the local drug problem will be presented at the upcoming, 4-part "Town Hall: Drugs and our Community" which will begin on May 9 at Twin Oak Elementary in Mount Vernon. Local Law enforcement, court officials and addiction specialists will be among those who will give their perspective on the opioid epidemic.

"With these town hall meetings, we want the public's support," Christopher said. "We want to raise public awareness. We need their help to combat this problem."


Reducing flooding the focus of meeting with officials, schools, and non-profits

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Local officials gathered Thursday to review progress made on the county's plan to reduce flooding in the area. Representatives from law enforcement, local municipalities, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Knox Community Hospital, Mount Vernon City Schools and nonprofit organizations attended.

Mark Maxwell, county Emergency Management Agency director, said there are four aspects of emergency management: preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. “Often we are so focused on preparedness and response that we don't get to the recovery and mitigation as often as we should,” he said.

Mitigation (reducing the severity of or preventing) of flooding is important. “For every $1 we spend in mitigation, we save $4 in repair and recovery,” said Sandy Hovest of Resource Solutions, who facilitated the review. “We need to look at mitigation as our wellness check.”

Hovest also said that one in four small businesses close and never reopen after disaster damages.

Resource Solutions wrote the county's flood mitigation strategy in 2014. Federal guidelines require an annual review of the plan. Participants broke into work groups to review goals, assess progress and note any strategies that need to be added or removed.

One goal is to update flood maps and adopt, appeal or modify FEMA revisions. Brian Ball, engineer for the City of Mount Vernon, noted that FEMA is still working from a 1977 flood plain model. An example of changes from the model is that the channel of Dry Creek is probably 10 foot deeper than in 1977 and can handle more flood waters. Because of these kinds of changes, homes in the city's west end have to opt out individually. It would be better, Ball said, for FEMA to update its model rather than putting the burden on homeowners.

Another goal is to raise sections of roads and bridges that flood on a regular basis. Ball said this is being planned for the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge replacement slated for 2019. Improvements to Blackberry Alley, the city's tree removal program, an increase in the city's utility rates to improve water and sewer infrastructure, examining natural dams to alleviate problems downstream and underground power and utility lines in new neighborhoods are other efforts that comply with the mitigation plan.

Centerburg Mayor Dave Beck said the goals set for the village are at different levels of being completed. “You're never really comfortable; you're always afraid you'll forget something,” he said. “You have to be vigilant and keep on top of situations.”

Beck said an ongoing goal is working with property owners to keep brush and other debris from flowing downstream. Retention ponds to hold runoff waters are a part of the village's subdivision regulations, resident communication is done through the county's alert system and the village works with the Red Cross to identify shelter locations and comfort stations during disasters.

One goal that Beck said needs improved on is identifying and communicating with special populations within the village regarding disasters, warnings and response. “We probably need to do this little more. We have a lot of convalescent homes in the community,” he said.

From the county's perspective, Commissioner Thom Collier said “A lot of things we have done or we are in the process of doing, and we've made great advancements since this plan was created.” He noted that relationships with groups such as the Army Corps of Engineers, ODNR, townships and Knox Soil and Water District enable the county to complete a lot of the goals listed in the plan.

Hovest said that future FEMA requirements for mitigation plans include more specific weather, flooding and natural hazard definitions and descriptions, plans for maintaining a quality water supply, and a more formal community collaboration hierarchy chart rather than informal relationships such as Knox County has.

“You are doing more than you think,” she told the group. “You are making mitigation part of your normal business. The solutions you are coming up with are not boiler plate; they are creative.”

Mount Vernon Town Hall: Drugs and our Community series announced

MOUNT VERNON – The office of Mayor Richard Mavis has announced the details for “Town Hall: Drugs and our Community,” an awareness and prevention collaboration series.

Local leaders in partnership with local law enforcement, members of the judicial system, and area recovery programs will present the series. The programs are an opportunity for the citizens of Mount Vernon and the Knox County area to obtain a first-hand perspective into the drug epidemic and crime trends associated with our community. The series will promote an open dialog with local leaders, first responders and court and recovery personnel to bridge a solution to this vast drug related epidemic.

This four part Town Hall series is free and open to the public. All sessions will be offered at Twin Oak Elementary School at 8888 Martinsburg Road, Mount Vernon, Ohio.

For more information about the Town Hall series, please contact the following offices:

Mayor Richard Mavis at 740-393-9517 or mtvmayor @mountvernonohio.org or David Priest, Chief Probation Officer for Mount Vernon Municipal court at 740-393-9555 or [email protected]

Each session will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 – Drug Awareness and the Local Drug Culture.  Detectives will provide a first-hand look into the drug culture sweeping through our community.

Thursday, May 11, 2017 – Crime Prevention, Crime Trends (fraud, scams, theft), Neighborhood Watch Programs, Community Safety.

Thursday, May 18, 2017 – The Court Perspective and Judicial Process. Through a panel discussion hear a local judicial perspective as it relates to crime, punishment, and addiction recovery.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 – Community Recovery and Addiction Resources.  Learn about recovery services and resources currently available to citizens of Knox County

Each session will include a question and answer session and prescription drug collection point.

Daniels runs out of patience on old middle/high school

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Saying he has run out of patience, Safety-service Director Joel Daniels is initiating action on the problem of the old high school at 301 N. Mulberry St.

The owner, Jason Gunsorek, owes over $13,000 in taxes on the property. Daniels said that when he discovered how far behind Gunsorek is in paying taxes, he went to Mayor Richard Mavis and said something has to be done.

"I am going to have Greg Bemiller, [property maintenance enforcement officer] take pictures of the property. We will then take them to our property appeals board and request they give it a label of condemned building,” Daniels told KnoxPages.com on Thursday. Daniels is concerned about the safety of the building, people illegally entering it and the lack of ability to secure it. “It's just one of those messy problems we can't solve,” he said.

Additionally, Daniels said he left a message with Chip McConville, Knox County prosecutor, on Wednesday. “He's the one who initiates foreclosure action,” explained Daniels.

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Old Mount Vernon Middle School on North Mulberry Street - KP file photo

Foreclosure and condemnation plans are still in the preliminary stages. “I just started the ball rolling on this yesterday,” said Daniels. “I'll talk with the mayor and we'll form a task force and formulate a plan on how to approach it.

“The owners live in the Columbus area,” he continued. “They have had communications with us and tell us what we want to hear, but we don't see much action. It has to be dealt with.”

The Board of Education for Mount Vernon City Schools initially sold the property in 1998. Since then, a series of owners has promised to rehab the building but none have followed through. Daniels said that in addition to being a safety issue, the building has dragged down property values in the neighborhood.

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