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Mercer reduces jail expense ratio

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

Mercer County has reduced its share of the cost of running the Boyle County Detention Center.

At last week’s meeting of the Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee, Mercer’s share of costs at BCDC went from 35-percent to 27-percent, while Boyle’s went from 65-percent to 73-percent.

The change in the cost-sharing ratio could save Mercer around $84,000 in the next fiscal year, according to figures provided by Boyle County Treasurer Mary Conley.

Earlier this year, officials from both counties agreed to amend the interlocal agreement, which established a floor of 35 percent for Mercer based on its percentage of the jail population. However, the county has not had more than 29-percent of inmates in the jail for years.

In other business, the Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee:

• Declined to give a $1 an hour across the board raise to all BCDC staff. Boyle County Magistrate Jack Hendricks brought the issue before the committee. Hendricks said there was enough savings within the current budget to cover the cost for the remainder of the year. The raise would cost $120,000, he said.

Hendricks said BCDC has been short by at least two guards for most of this year. He said recruiting was difficult because the pay was so low. “We’re just not paying them enough to fill the positions,” Hendricks said.

Last month, analysts from Brandstetter-Carroll Inc. issued a report on BCDC, which they say has been overcrowded for decades. They said the only thing that has prevented a federal lawsuit that could be financially ruinous for both counties was the efforts of the jail staff.

“They’ve saved us a lot of money over the years,” Hendricks said. “They certainly deserve a raise.”

While acknowledging jail employees needed a raise, Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean and Judge-Executive Milward Dedman said they are concerned about the timing.

“We’re halfway through the financial year,” said Dean. “I just don’t think now is the appropriate time.”

Dedman said they will revisit the issue when it comes time to put together new budgets from both the counties and the jail.

“I give you my word we’ll revisit this,” Dedman said.

In other action:

Looked into relocating BCDC’s computer networking equipment, which is currently located in the boilerroom.

Bill Nichols, the IT operator at BCDC, told the committee a pressure valve had recently blown, but none of the equipment was damaged. However, Nichols called the equipment a “hodge-podge” of “yesterday’s wiring” that needs to be updated and moved somewhere drier. The committee asked Nichols to assemble an estimate of how much it would cost to relocate as well as replace some of the out-of-date equipment.

The next meeting of the Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee will be on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, at 1:30 p.m. in Boyle County.

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