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Fiscal Court Holds Off On Jail Break

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Robert Moore
Herald Staff

The Mercer County Fiscal Court held off on making a decision on dissolving the interlocal agreement with Boylc County concerning the operation of Boyle County Detention Center.

The Boyle County Fiscal Court already voted to end the agreement, which was passed by the fiscal courts of both Mercer and Boyle Counties in 1996. Both sides have been negotiating an agreement to have Boyle continue to house Mercer inmates at the regional jail, including a work session on Monday, Dec. 20, after Boyle’s fiscal court had already approved it.

“There really wasn’t much to work on,” Judge-Executive Sarah Steele said.

Magistrate Kevin Hicks moved to go forward with the contract, which would start July 1, 2024. Hicks’ motion died for lack of a second.

Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean asked the fiscal court to table the issue until they get more information.

“We have to know by March,” Judge Steele said, due to budget considerations.

It has been maintained that both counties have to agree to dissolve the interlocal agreement, including by an attorney from the Kentucky Association of Counties. Dean said that is debatable.

“We have a lot of options,” Dean told the fiscal court. “We litigate that issue.”

Under the new agreement, instead of a share of jail expenses, Mercer would pay $65 per inmate, as well as assume medical expenses in certain situations, such as extended hospital stays. Boyle officials have maintained that Mercer would still save money.

“It would save us some money, but it’s not a lot,” Steele said.

The relationship between the two counties has always been fraught. Back in 2018, Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford told the Danville Advocate-Messenger that the interlocal agreement violated Kentucky law and that he would no longer be involved with the joint jail committee. There have been running arguments over jail expenses and how they are divided, medical contracts, inmate overpopulation, how jail staff evaluate arrestees before incarceration and the need for a new jail.

“I made it very clear we were not interested in bonding for a new jail,” Steele told the fiscal court Tuesday.

“This cost to the county is out of control,” Magistrate Hicks said. “I guarantee they’re going to come with a bigger budget next year.”

Hicks said the new contract, which would expire in 2025, gave Mercer County options.

“We can’t stop the runaway train under the current agreement,” he said. “The train has done run over us.”.

The fiscal court took no other action, opting to wait until they received more information from a request for proposals they voted to post earlier this month, however Hicks vowed to introduce the motion at the next meeting.

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