By Greg Bird
McCreary County Judge Executive Jimmie Greene II said this week that an offer to house prisoners at the Whitley County Detention Center has been withdrawn – leaving County officials to look
elsewhere to house local prisoners closer to home.
Whitley County Jailer Brian Lawson presented a proposal to the McCreary County Fiscal Court in June, in which he would take over housing local inmates from Leslie County – saving the County time, money and potential liability when making transfers.
Under Jailer Lawson’s proposal, county prisoners would be housed at a rate of $31.34 per day, slightly more than the $30 per day currently charged by Leslie County.
The additional $1.34 per day would have cost the County an additional $39,000 in housing costs if it were in place last year.
But, that additional cost would have been offset by shorter transport distances and times. Sheriff Randy Waters had stated his deputies would transport their arrests directly to Whitley County if a deal could have been arranged – leading to additional potential savings by eliminating much of the transport costs. The Fiscal Court currently pays Transport Officers $54 per trip ($13.50 per hour for four hours). With the shorter distance and drive time the Fiscal Court could have lowered that rate to reflect the new situation.
Questions about a reported $30,000 per year “stipend” or “administration fee” arose following the release of the proposal. The stipend was not included in the original proposal, but Jailer Lawson mentioned the fee in the meeting, noting he would not seek to impose it for the first few months of the deal.
Judge Greene said he and McCreary County Magistrates had questions about the legality of the reported stipend Jailer Lawson had intended to impose on top of housing fees. When Lawson was contacted and asked to provide more information – Judge Greene said Lawson withdrew the offer altogether.
Attempts to contact Lawson this week for a comment on the withdrawal have been unsuccessful.
Legality of the stipend aside, it appeared that moving prisoners to Whitley County from Leslie County could have potentially saved the Fiscal Court at least $40,000 annually in jail costs. While a significant amount, the savings only represent about four percent of the $1.033 million jail budget.
Judge Greene said Monday he is still actively pursuing other detention centers in hopes of making arrangements to house local prisoners. He noted the new Laurel County Detention Center, which is stated to house up to 1,000 prisoners, is slated to open within the next couple months.