By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
The Marion County Development Authority’s purchase of the Law Tower on Adams Street will give Marion County’s Day Report Center some much-needed breathing room.
Since 2010, the program has been offering an alternative to jail for offenders sentenced for nonviolent crimes through counseling and other services.
The program is currently restricted to the third floor of the seven-floor building. It has grown so much over the past three years by offering more services and helping more people that expansion comes as a great help.
“We will start a whole new work process on it at some time,” said Charlie Reese, director, MCDA.
“This is the biggest news we have to report,” he said at the Wednesday meeting of the Marion County Commission.
“The center has needed a permanent place for quite some time,” said commission President Randy Elliott.
“We debated whether to remodel the third floor of the Jacobs Building as opposed to purchasing the Law Tower. The property is so close to the courthouse and at a reasonable price.”
With only the Marion County Historical Society Museum between the tower and the courthouse, “It’s almost connected to us,” Elliott said.
“Any county would hope for something that close. We are very fortunate to get it. We will remodel it and make it very nice.
“It’s a good acquisition for the county.”
The tower, which looms over the 200 block of Adams Street, already houses other offices.
“It’s a nice piece of property, structurally sound from top to bottom,” Elliott said.
“The Day Report Center is very successful and growing, and requires additional office space.”
The former Security Bank Building is a welcome addition to the county’s family on the 200 block of Adams Street.
Ted Offutt, Day Report Center director, has plans for the extra space.
“We’ll take out some walls and make large classrooms for our Batterers Intervention Program and for some of our groups for drug and alcohol counseling, and anger management. This will enable us to do more counseling.
“Now we have to go to the city-county complex (J. Harper Meredith Building) and hope a room is available. This will give us the room and space to operate in the center and provide whatever services we need on site.
“We’ll have enough room for the drug court or any other agency that works with us once we expand.”
After adding the extra space and little sprucing up and remodeling, “It should be very good for what our needs are,” Offutt said.
There are 64 people in the program currently, he said, with another 15 in the Batterers Intervention Program.
“They’re not necessarily at the center. They’re sent to us by a judge because of a domestic issue.”
Some are referred for drug screening, or by the DHHR or family court.
“Our services have expanded over the last years to include helping different agencies. We do both drug and alcohol monitoring. With a SCRAM bracelet, we can monitor alcohol use 24 hours a day.”
The ankle bracelet transmits alcohol use by computer to the center.
“If someone is drinking, we know it almost instantly. There are a lot of different areas we cover,” Offutt said. “We’re always trying to work with counselors and participants to help them change their lives and not be a burden on society by being in the criminal justice system.
“This is also saving the county money by their not being incarcerated.”
The center is relatively new to the county, he said.
“But we’re a very important part of community corrections because we enhance public safety. We’re actually monitoring some of these in the program where they may not have been monitored at all and were out on bond.
“That is a big cost-saver for the county.”
Clients also perform community service, such as cleaning up roadways and streams, and at Palatine Park’s riverfront development.
“And we do a lot of work for different nonprofit agencies around the county,” he said.
The program saves the county about $50 a day per person, the average cost of each inmate in the jail system.
“Instead of sentencing them to jail, the magistrate or circuit judge can sentence an offender to the Day Report Center or Batterers Intervention or drug screening,” Offutt said.
“Our classes hopefully help them become better citizens. We work with a lot of different agencies, people who are committed to helping offenders turn their lives around.”
Remodeling on the tower will begin “when the weather’s not good for outside work,” he said, but he’s not sure just when.
He agreed with Elliott that the closeness of the tower to the courthouse makes for a judicial strong presence in downtown Fairmont.
Plus, it’s a nice way to help preserve the historic building, he said.
“It’s good to see it not going into disrepair,” he said.
And if anyone is thinking of renaming the structure, he has an idea.
“The Fred L. Fox Tower,” he said.
The tower could also give nonprofit agencies a new home, he said.
“I think that would be an appropriate use. But my first concern is for the Day Report Center.
“I’ve been in Fairmont for 60 years and seen how these buildings fall into disrepair and are torn down. And that’s a shame.
“But now you look around Fairmont and see the city fixing up the old bus terminal and the Masonic Building.
“The city has the potential to become viable again, especially with the new state office building. In general, the downtown is starting to take shape and improve.
“It’s nice that the county has put some money into this building and make it usable for the next 100 years.
“With the courthouse and museum and now this building, and on the other side, the Jacobs Building, jail and city-county complex, all of these are tied together to make a judicial block. It’s nice for people to come and take care of all the business they have in one area.”
Email Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.