Sheriff setting up CCW room at main office

LISBON -The sheriff is building a special room to accommodate the growing number of people seeking permits to carry concealed firearms.

Columbiana County commissioners this week awarded the contract for the project to the J. Herbert Construction Co. of Salem for $32,050, which was the lowest of the bids solicited from area contractors by project architect Summer Barker of Columbiana.

County Sheriff Ray Stone said afterwards the room for processing permit applications to carry a concealed weapon will be built in vacant space in the storage area of his main office on County Home Road. The 300-square-foot room will be divided into two parts, with one half used by the

public to fill out permit applications, with the other for the equipment used to fingerprint applicants and perform the criminal background search.

Stone said he decided to put the space to use rather than continue the practice of having applicants fill out the paperwork at his civil office in the county courthouse basement and then go to their County Home Road location to be fingerprinted and processed.

The move is expected to streamline the process for applicants while also allowing the civil office staff to spend more time on its other duties, such as processing court orders, indictments and related paperwork.

“It’s to make it easier for the public by making it one-stop shopping” when obtaining a CCW permit, Stone said.

More than 6,000 new and renewal CCW permits have been issued by the sheriff’s office since Ohio’s CCW law went into effect in 2004, but the number has increased significantly in recent years.

The number of permits nearly doubled last year, with 1,255 permits issued compared to 720 in 2011. As for this year, 1,506 have been issued through Aug. 30.

Stone further tweaked the system about a month ago by restricting hours when applications can be obtained at his civil office, and the schedule will likely be changed again once the new office opens. He also intends to begin requiring applicants pay with a cashier’s check or money order because “cash is just too much trouble.”

“I’m sure there’ll be some bugs to work out, but it will eventually be a better system and more convenient for the public,” Stone said of the changes.

Under Ohio law, contracts cannot be awarded if they exceed 10 percent of the project estimate, and Herbert Construction was among three contractors asked by Barker to submit a bid after the initial bids received from other contractors exceeded the original project estimate of $28,500 by more than 10 percent. Barker also raised the estimate to $35,600.

Stone said the money for the project will come from the fees paid by CCW applicants.