While Boyle County officials seem to be trying to break free of the interlocal cooperation agreement that governs the regional jail, Mercer County officials are saying not so fast.
Last week, Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford told the Danville Advocate-Messenger the interlocal agreement violates Kentucky law and that he is no longer involved with the joint jail committee, which has run the regional jail for over two decades.
Wofford told the Advocate-Messenger that officials from both counties will be forced to devise a new agreement or “transition” plan, which may involve contracting with other counties to accept their inmates into the Boyle County Detention Center.
In addition to Wofford’s statements, the Advocate also reported that Boyle Treasurer Mary Conley said she was “morally” unable to accept Mercer’s recent payment of about $70,000 for jail operations.
Despite what Wofford says, Mercer County officials say the interlocal agreement is still intact.
“It’s a valid interlocal agreement,” said Mercer Judge-Executive Milward Dedman Tuesday morning. “They can’t decide that on their own.”
Dedman said officials from both counties—including Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean—are meeting Tuesday to discuss the issue. Dedman said he was not attending the meeting because he did not want there to be a quorum present.
Dedman said he had heard that Conley had not accepted Mercer County’s most recent payment, but said as far as he is concerned, the interlocal agreement and the joint jail committee are both still in effect.
“We fulfilled our end of the agreement,” the judge said.
Wofford told the Advocate that he’d reviewed the interlocal agreement with attorneys from the Kentucky Jailer’s Association and Boyle County Attorney Chris Herron.
“There’s some big issues with the contract,” Wofford told the Advocate.
Mercer County has also spoken with attorneys about the agreement.
“They ensure us it’s an enforceable contract,” Dedman said.
This isn’t the first time the interlocal agreement has become a point of contention between the two counties. In 2018, Mercer County hired a lawyer to look into the financial arrangements at the regional jail.
The interlocal agreement, which was passed by the fiscal courts of both Mercer and Boyle Counties in 1996, divided expenses 65-35 according to county population, with Mercer, the smaller county, paying the smaller share.
Mercer officials pointed out that over the last two decades, Mercer’s share of inmates has steadily declined. According to numbers provided by Boyle, Mercer spent over $108,000 for jail operations during the 2016-17 fiscal year than was warranted by the amount of prisoners from Mercer.
Both counties ultimately agreed to renegotiate the percentage, dropping the floor from 35-percent to 27-percent. Mercer also began paying a monthly $3,000 administration fee. The amendment, which was approved by both fiscal courts, did not dissolve the joint jail committee, which currently consists of Wofford, Herron, Boyle County Judge-Executive Howard Hunt, Dedman and Dean.
Wofford complained to the Advocate that, during last year’s budget discussions, Dedman and Dean “didn’t want us to have the mental health services” even though he said as a constitutional officer, he is required to provide those service to inmates.
“Basically, you’re allowing two people that are elected in Mercer County to influence decisions in Boyle County where they’ve not been elected,” Wofford told the Advocate.
Mercer officials have also complained of having to abide by decisions made by another county. In 2018, the Mercer County Fiscal Court was informed the jail was replacing the fire alarm system. The $35,814 project was not bid out because it was an emergency and, by law, emergencies concerning possible loss of life do not have to be bid out. And since the joint jail committee had already decided to pay for the alarm replacement from the jail’s savings account, the fiscal court had nothing to vote on.
“We don’t have a lot of say so, do we?” quipped Magistrate Tim Darland.
Dedman said he had spoken with Judge Hunt. He said relations are cordial between the two counties.
“They have a different interpretation than we do,” Dedman said.