Jail problems will squeeze this small county's budget.
Hickman County Jail -State action threatens viability
Hickman County Fiscal Court met in regular session Monday morning in the county judge's office. Present were Hickman County Judge/Executive Greg Pruitt, Magistrates Harold Jackson, Ricky Deweese and Tommy Roberts, County Treasurer Carol Malugin, County Clerk Jimbo Berry, County Attorney Sue Ellen Morris, Road Foreman and Emergency Management Director Shadd Byassee, Jailer Chad Frizzell, Sheriff Mark Green, Joye Workman, Gaye Bencini, Corrine Rudd, and Kelly Byassee.
The future looks bleak for the Hickman County Detention Center.
Jailer Chad Frizzell reported a total of 39 state prisoners. "That's low, low, way down," he said. It's a problem county jails are facing across the state due to the state's early release program.
"Fifteen years ago they wanted us to build bigger jails to handle inmates' overcrowding," Frizzell said. "Now they've cut the number of inmates and left us hanging."
Judge Pruitt said the numbers he had just heard "cut me to the core."
He added, "There's absolutely no way this county can maintain a detention facility on 39 state inmates."
Pruitt said it is the lowest number he can ever remember. "The state is trying to save money in its budget." He said they should just be honest and say, 'those of you who have county jails, we're going to break you.' "
Pruitt said there is a bill filed now, and if it passes, "they're going to be taking another 3,000 - 4,000 prisoners" out of county jails.
Pruitt said he, the jailer and county treasurer look over jail finances quarterly. "Dec. 31, 50 percent through the budget year, we brought in 51 percent of what we estimated we would bring in." However, expenses were 52 percent more than budgeted. He added, "If we continue at 39 prisoners, it's going to be much, much worse."
He said that even if they hit right on budget with the jail, "you're still going to be transferring $459,000 from general fund to the jail."
Pruitt said he thinks there may be an underlying state effort to close county jails that were encouraged to be built years back, and have regional jails, thus saving money in the State Department of Corrections.
Pruitt said if they close the Hickman County Detention Center, the county still has the debt service of about $170,000 per year which must be paid or bond holders can take the county to court to make them pay.
A jailer's salary must be paid until the end of his term. After that point, a transportation officer's salary could be paid, which would be less than the jailer's salary.
Dispatch has been done at the jail at no additional cost. If it is closed, there is an added cost of dispatch for emergency services. Cost of dispatch personnel over a year’s time would exceed $100,000, not to mention cost of utilities, insurance and other related costs.
Also, if the jail is closed, the county will have to pay for incarceration of Hickman County prisoners in another county, which was costing approximately $125,000 per year when the decision was made to build the jail in 1998. However, all of the above combined would be cheaper than keeping the jail open here with only 39 prisoners a month, Pruitt said.
"I don't like talking about that," Pruitt said. "I don't know anything any of us can do about that but look at the numbers and the most efficient process."
Magistrate Ricky Deweese asked what the building could be used for if not a jail. Pruitt said it might could be used for dispatch and/or emergency operations center.
While reviewing the sheriff's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Judge Pruitt pointed out some differences in this administration's budget and the prior administration's. The fiscal court's quarterly amount to the sheriff's office has been $15,000 for many. Sheriff Mark Green's budget on this line item was at $25,000.
Office supplies is at $4,800 whereas last year $425 was spent.
Sheriff Green said that the office supplies included a one-time replacement of office furniture including chairs held together with duct tape and filing cabinets that "are falling apart" and cannot be locked. He said the fax machine sometimes does not work.
As for the $25,000, Green said weapons and bullet proof vests are borrowed from other agencies now.
Green has applied for grants to offset the costs.
Magistrate Ricky Deweese asked if the supplies were top of the line, or middle of the line, etc. "I'm not trying to be hardnosed- just looking at next year's money too."
Magistrate Tommy Roberts agreed, saying that with the closing of the Goodyear plant, it will effect net profit taxes, which in turn will affect the county's budget. "The jail is going to be a drain on the budget. I don't want to deter you, but we can only do so much."
After further discussion, the fiscal court and Green came to an agreement to change the line item budget amounts to $20,000 rather than $25,000 and $2,500 rather than $4,800. With those changes being made, the court approved the sheriff's proposed budget.
Not approving flood ordinance yet
With too many unanswered questions concerning a flood plain ordinance, the fiscal court took no action on a second reading that would have passed it.
Judge Pruitt said he had a concern that if someone is now in this flood plain, and they weren't before, they might not be able to sell or refinance without the flood insurance.
He received a list of names form the Purchase Area Development District that shows groups of people who were not in the flood plain before, and now are, and a group that were in, and now are not.
Pruitt said he will continue to talk to PADD officials and FEMA officials to see what this means exactly, especially for people who want to build a home or business in this flood plain area.
Magistrate Roberts also wants to know the advantages and disadvantages of having this.
•The fiscal court authorized Judge Pruitt to fight the proposed water rate increase to city customers of 21% by Water Service Corporation of Kentucky.
•The county has submitted a request for $200,000 in paving money from the Dept. of Transportation.
The next fiscal court meeting has been set for March 14 at 6:30 p.m.