Mercer County has scored a victory in their negotiations with Boyle County over how joint jail expenses are divided between the two counties. But at least one Mercer resident is wondering if the county should be asking for more.
Last week, the Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee approved amending the interlocal agreement between the two counties that would allow Mercer County to pay a smaller share of jail costs in 2019.
Mercer Judge-Executive Milward Dedman said the amended agreement would reduce Mercer’s contribution towards jail expenses from $883,198 to $799,189 for the next fiscal year.
In the current interlocal agreement, which was ratified by both counties over 20 years ago, Mercer is required to pay at least 35 percent of jail expenses. The amended agreement, which is currently being drafted by Boyle County Attorney Lynne Dean and Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean, would drop that to 27-percent.
In addition, Mercer will pay Boyle a flat fee of $3,000 a month—amounting to $36,000 a year—for administrative costs. Mercer will also continue to pay off debt at Boyle County Detention Center. The final debt payment on BCDC is due in February 2019.
Another bone of contention between the two counties is how jail transportation costs are divided. Over the past two decades, Mercer has been paying all of the costs of transporting Mercer inmates to and from court, while Boyle has been using BCDC funds to pay their court transport costs. The upshot was Mercer County was paying a percentage of Boyle’s court transport costs on top of their own transportation costs.
In April, Boyle officials agreed to use the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office for court transport despite objections from jail officials. However, the Boyle Fiscal Court chose to ignore that recommendation and to continue using BCDC personnel to transport inmates.
Under the new budget, Mercer will be reimbursed those expenses, Dedman said Tuesday.
The Mercer County Fiscal Court approved the new jail budget. However, Terry Dunne, a Mercer citizen who has attended both fiscal court and joint jail committee meetings, thinks the county should ask for even more.
Dunne, who has persistently questioned how BCDC is managed, thinks jail personnel and funds should be used to handle inmate transport costs for both counties. He also feels that county officials should press for a lower floor.
Dunne said Mercer’s current population was only 21-percent, but Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean said the count was “skewed” because of final sentencing. Dean said Mercer’s share of the inmate population hovered around 27-percent.
He said the ratio is established by inmate days served over a year.
When Dunne suggested Dean change the interlocal agreement further, he said he was limited to what had already been agreed upon by both counties.
“I’m not rewriting the whole interlocal agreement,” Dean said.
Magistrate Tim Darland also said he wasn’t happy with the way the counties split expenses either, but voted to approve the new budget, saying, “It’s better than what we had.”
“I think we’re in a lot better position than what we were,” said Judge Dedman. “It’s pretty close to what we proposed.”
Dedman said Mercer would continue talks with Boyle over how transportation costs are split.
“I want to continue talks about putting all the transport costs on the jail,” he said.
Now the ball’s in Boyle’s court. The Boyle County Fiscal Court will consider the new agreement on May 24.
To learn more, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.