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County officials looking at jail options

By: Greg Bird

McCreary County Judge Executive Doug Stephens, Jailer Jessie Hatfield, Sheriff Randy Waters and County Attorney

Conley Chaney met Tuesday morning to discuss ways the offices can work together and to also examine the possibility of at least partially reopening the jail to house local prisoners.

“We want to work together,” Stephens said after the meeting. “I think good things are going to happen.”

Judge Stephens said the meeting went well, with all parties discussing ways to help each other and alleviate the burden on the county budget in regards to the jail and transports.

There have been approximately 62 transports made by McCreary County Transport Officers since January 5, the first day of Hatfield’s term. Judge Stephens did affirm the Jailer has been an active part of the majority of the transports.

Currently, Stephens said, there are only three other Transport Officers to help with transports. He stated he planned to recommend to the Fiscal Court at the next meeting to hire additional officers to help ensure enough staff were on hand to assist Hatfield with some of the transports.

One possibility that could eventually come to pass would be a partial re-opening of the jail as a temporary holding facility, mainly during daylight hours.

If certain conditions are met, and with the approval of the Department of Corrections, the Jail could be used to house prisoners for a short period during the day with a jailer on staff to guard.

Such a move would be advantageous if certain prisoners could be held after their arrest until a bond is met, thus saving the cost of a transport.

It could also be designated a Life Safety Jail, which means it could not house state level prisoners.

Again, such a move would require approval from the DOC, and it would also cost the county a substantial amount to meet the requirements to operate.

“The Department of Corrections is supposed to come down here and meet with us with their facilities people and look at the jail,” Stephens said. “After that they will tell us what we can and can not do.”

Judge Stephens said those possible moves are something that was discussed during the meeting Tuesday, but there are budgetary considerations to be made before any action is taken.

One of the issues will, of course, be money.

Judge Stephens said is was unlikely anything could be accomplished before July, due to the lack of money in both the Jail budget and General Fund.

“The majority of the jail budget is already spent,” Stephens said. “It was based on the costs from the previous year.”

The jail budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year stands at about $700,000, with more than half of that set aside for housing prisoners in other facilities. It did get some relief with Hatfield assuming the role of Jailer this month.

In October of 2013 the Fiscal Court set the salary for Jailer/Transport Officer at $28,000 per year since the jail was closed. Tony Ball, who served as Jailer until January 5, was paid approximately $79,000 in base salary for the last year of his term.

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