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Fiscal Court Hears More Jail Complaints

The Harrodsburg Herald/Robert Moore
Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford, right, took officials including Mercer County Judge-Executive Sarah Steele, left, on a tour of the Boyle County Detention Center two weeks ago.

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

The Mercer County Fiscal Court is preparing for a big bill for the regional jail. At their regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28, the fiscal court voted to transfer $500,000 from the county’s payroll-net profit account to the jail account.  Judge-Executive Sarah Steele noted the county had not made a transfer to jail fund since June of last year.

“We are not up to date on our bills,” Steele told the magistrates.

For months, Boyle County hasn’t asked for any contribution from Mercer beyond the $3,000 monthly administration fee. However, over the last few months, the two counties have been trying to catch up. At the last joint jail committee Boyle Treasurer Darlene Lanham said she reran reports and determined that Mercer owed more.

“We owe more than the bill that was given to us,” said Steele Tuesday, who noted that Lanham’s financial report had not been approved at the joint jail meeting. However, Steele said they wanted to have funds ready..

Magistrate Kevin Hicks said there had been another incident where Boyle County Detention Center turned down a Mercer County arrestee.

“They’re not showing him professional courtesy,” Hicks said. “We are paying them money for a service.”

Earlier this month, Mercer County Jailer Bret “Chambo” Chamberlain complained about jail staff turning down an arrestee suffering with mental issues on Feb. 3. Chamberlain insisted that jail staff were overriding the doctor. However, Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford said the doctor who performed the evaluation would not sign the release.

“We can’t accept anyone if they won’t sign off,” Wofford said at the joint jail meeting.

County officials said they had not seen a medical release in the latest incident. Officials from both counties plan to hold a meeting to work out solutions.

On TV, police lock the offender behind bars and that’s the end of the show. But in real life, taking someone into custody is a lot more complicated.

Mercer Sheriff Ernie Kelty said there had been in a change in the process for emergency mental detention. Previously, detainees could be taken straight to Eastern State Hospital in Lexington for evaluation. At the beginning of the year, the process changed. Detainees have to be brought to the sheriff’s office and undergo a virtual evaluation with New Vista, then deputies have to file paperwork to take them to Eastern State. Kelty said they’ve handled four incidents with the new system. He said two had worked out well, but they had both been conducted during regular business hours. However, one recent case took more than six hours to process, the sheriff said.

“A road deputy will not be able to sit with them that long,” Kelty said.

The next meeting of the joint jail committee will be Friday, March 10, at 10 a.m. at the Mercer County Fiscal Courthouse.

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