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Mercer Asked To Dig Deep Again For Jail Costs

Mercer County is being asked to dig even deeper this month in order to pay jail expenses.

The Boyle and Mercer County Joint Jail Committee is asking both counties to pay $200,000—nearly double what they pay in a normal month. Mercer will pay $70,000 while Boyle will pay $130,000 to run the jail through November.

“I hope we don’t have to dig that deep again any time soon,” said Mercer County Treasurer Sandy Sanders.

Jail officials say the costs of running the 20-plus-year-old jail are increasing. Southern Health Partners is charging over $34,000 a  month to provide 24-hour care while expenses for the substance abuse program have also increased as the number of participants has doubled from 20 to 40.

Another expense that’s getting bigger is water and sewage. The City of Danville’s water and sewage rates went up on Sept. 1, leading to a $5,000 increase on the jail’s sewer bill. “Our water and sewage costs have increased by a third,” said Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean.

After paying bills and the last payroll, Boyle County Detention Center has only $30,000 left in the bank, jail officials say.

At the last fiscal court meeting, it was decided to contact a lawyer to look into the interlocal agreement between Mercer and Boyle.

The agreement splits costs between the two counties 65-35 based on the inmate population. Mercer is responsible for no less than 35-percent of jail expenses and no more than 50-percent. However, Mercer inmates have not accounted for more than 29-percent of the inmate population for years and county officials have been complaining they are paying  more than their fair share.

Boyle County officials have not seemed entirely receptive to the idea. At a special meeting in July, Boyle Magistrate Phil Sammons said, “If you don’t like what you’re paying, take them somewhere else.”

Mercer has no where else to place its inmates. The costs of transporting them elsewhere, even if it was possible—most jails in Kentucky are overcrowded—would be astronomical. So would the cost of building a jail in Mercer. Even if that idea proved economically feasible, it would still take  years to implement.

The fiscal court agreed to pay the $70,000. They also agreed to revisions to the jail policies and procedures manual, revisions to the volunteer rules at the jail and to purchase a mixer for the jail which will cost $2,484.14.

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