Though it wasn’t on the agenda, the McCreary County Detention Center became a major topic of discussion at Thursday’s Fiscal Court meeting.
Near the end of the meeting, County Attorney Conley Chaney started the conversation by noting the County needed to take a serious look at possible ways to make housing prisoners out of the county more cost effective.
He stated he did not know the exact costs associated with contracting with other facilities, but said it would be in the best interests of the County to be constantly looking for more affordable housing.
Magistrate Roger Philips asked if Judge Stephens had heard any updates from the Department of Corrections as to the possible steps the County needs to take in order to refurbish the existing facility in order to possibly reopen the jail.
Judge Stephens said the letter requesting the information is on the Commissioner’s desk, but no response has been given yet.
Deputy Judge Andrew Powell stepped in, voicing his opinion that McCreary County was not likely to see the jail reopened, either by remodeling the existing facility or building a new one.
He also stated the lack of any action by the County over the past several years to develop a plan to remedy the issues pointed out prior to the closure of the facility in January 2013 or to construct a new facility has not aided the cause toward the DOC believing the jail could be opened again.
Powell said a new jail, meeting state requirements, would cost $6 million at a minimum, and was out of the County’s financial ability at this point.
Jailer Jessie Hatfield agreed with Powell, noting he had attended a training session the week prior and was told by DOC officials that the county could not afford a jail, and the Department of Corrections was not likely to authorize the reopening of the current facility.
He stated he had been told by DOC representative Mike Coomer that the County’s revenues could not support building a new jail, and there was little hope to reopen the old jail.
Powell did research the operating cost for the Jail fund over the past several years to show actual annual expenses and revenues for the fund are somewhat lower than the budgets from before the jail closed, mainly due to the lack of state prisoners.
While the cost of housing has increased, the expense for salary has decreased, especially since the new Jailer is paid significantly less than the previous position holders.
Powell stated the County should be making better use of the ability to hold prisoners for up to four hours at the holding cell in the courthouse during operating hours, which would allow more individuals to get bonded out locally, rather than pay the daily housing fees or transport cost.
In other Fiscal Court actions Thursday: the Court approved the first reading of a new ordinance to officially dissolve the McCreary County Airport Board.
While the Fiscal Court had already taken action to disband the Board: removing any authority the Board had to act on behalf of the County, but County Attorney Chaney advised this ordinance would officially eliminate the Board’s Special Purpose Governmental Entity status with the Department for Local Government.
The Court also approved a resolution in support of a $250,000 grant application through the SOAR Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development Fund.
The magistrates were told the grant did not require a local match, but if the County were able to provide some funding it would give more strength to the application.
Judge Stephens said the funding, if awarded, would have to be used for economic development that could benefit the region. He also stated no definitive plan is in place as of yet for the funding.
Magistrate Baird asked for an update on outstanding Occupational Tax accounts from Director Stephanie Tucker.
Tucker stated collections on past due accounts are ongoing, with monthly reminders being sent to those who owe. She also noted five criminal summons have been issued with three of the individuals responding.
Out of about 380 overdue accounts, about 45 have taken advantage of an amnesty period offered by her office, but admitted some account holders have moved out of the county or are businesses that have since closed, making it difficult to collect.
Chaney also asked the Court to return unspent funds from the cold check program to his office to be used toward office supplies and day-to-day operations. Chaney stated he was required to turn any excess funds to the Fiscal Court, but they had the authority to return it to his office.
The Court voted unanimously to do so.
The next regular scheduled meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be on Thursday, December 10 at 6:00 p.m.