The Richmond Register

November 14, 2012

Court votes to continue looking into jail expansion

By Ronica Shannon
Senior News Writer

RICHMOND — The Madison Fiscal Court agreed unanimously Tuesday to inform the Kentucky Department of Corrections it has interest in building a 100-bed facility behind the county’s existing jail.

Because of the jail’s overcrowding issues, state inmates are being taken away, which means the county loses money, explained Jailor Doug Thomas.

“We bring in $56,000 to $70,000 a month from (housing) state prisoners,” said Madison County Treasurer Glenna Baker.

When the Kentucky Depart-ment of Corrections sees that the Madison County Detention Center is above capacity, they come and pull their state inmates, Thomas said.

House Bill 463, which lowered incarceration requirements for some offenses, allows counties to construct facilities to house lower-risk offenders, Thomas explained. However, the state Department of Corrections and the General Assembly requires a formal expression of interest from a fiscal court before it will consider a county as a prospect for the new type of facility, said Madison Judge Executive Kent Clark.

Expressing interest would not automatically obligate the county to build the structure, Thomas added.

Having a facility to house Class D felons would allow more room in the detention center to house state inmates, which would generate more money for the county’s general fund.

Felony charges range from Class D, which is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison, up to Class A, which holds a maximum of a life sentence in prison.

“We’ve sent out 300 or more state inmates since I’ve been jailor,” Thomas said.

The county receives anywhere from $31 to $34 a day per state inmate, he said.

“They (the Department of Corrections) made a clear statement that unless the fiscal court makes a decision to do something about the overcrowding, they will come in and pull those state inmates,” Clark said.

“That would kill us,” Baker said.

Magistrates Greg King and Larry Combs were apprehensive to vote in favor of continuing with the process, but realized that a unanimous vote from the court would appear better on the surface to the Department of Corrections, Combs said.

In other business:

• Only eight of Kentucky’s 120 counties had higher voter turnouts than Madison County, according to Kenny Barger, county clerk. Madison County’s overall voter turnout was 59.6 percent, Barger reported. He asked and received the court’s approval to disperse $36,000 to cover all expenses of the county’s election operation, including the pay of precinct workers.

Reducing the number of county precincts, which is something the court has discussed in the past, would save taxpayers about $7,000 a year, Barger said. Some precincts exist only so 10 people can vote, and they all cost the same, no matter the number of voters included in each precinct, Clark said.

“Nobody realizes what it costs to run an election,” he said.

Baker pointed out that aside from the $36,000, an extra $40,000 goes to HARP Enterprises, which is the company that provides the voting equipment. The county is only reimbursed for $11,000, she said.

• The court accepted $81,633 from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to provide maintenance for all unincorporated roads that touch the city limits of Berea or Richmond. The specific roads to receive maintenance will be announced at the next court meeting, Clark said.

• The court voted 5-1 to hire Ryan Eidson to serve in the county’s IT Department, but after much discussion from the magistrates and IT Department Director Chris Iseral.

Edison was hired to replace Tracy Bryant, who now is employed by the City of Richmond. Eidson formerly was working for CSEPP (Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program), which is funded through the federal government. Eidson was making $46,000 with CSEPP, but was seeking the security of a county job, despite having to take a $4,000 annual pay decrease, Clark said.

Magistrates Roger Barger and Greg King we apprehensive about the new hire because Eidson would be making about $13,000 more on the year when compared to Bryant’s former salary.

Iseral explained to the court that Eidson was trained on all things he (Iseral) was trained to do, and that he would feel comfortable leaving the county’s IT support in his hands on the event that Iseral had to leave for an extended period of time.

Barger was the only “No” vote to the new hire, stating he had nothing personal against Eidson.

Other county hires made Tuesday include Neil Cates who was hired to work for the county road department and Judy Wilhoit was hired to work in the county treasure’s office.

The next meeting of the fiscal court is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the Madison County Courthouse.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.