In May 22-28 issue By Greg Wells Times Journal Managing Editor
JAMESTOWN - The members of the Russell County Fiscal Court, other local officials and county employees were treated May 15th to a number-intensive presentation regarding the future of the county jail.
It was a public meeting but only a handful of people attended, other than those connected with county or city governance.
The presentation by consulting firm Woodrum & Associates analyzed the growth pattern of the county and likely impact on jail population to formulate three options.
The options were a jail just large enough to house the county's expected prisoner load out to 2030, one that will house those prisoners and a few inmates from another county or the state and a third option that takes in a larger number of outside prisoners to improve the fiscal situation at the jail.
Roger Meece, one of the principals at the firm, is from Russell County. He began the program by saying that Kentucky houses more than 22,000 prisoners presently and has the fastest growing jail population in the nation.
He pointed out that this county has a 30-year-old jail that will house 18 prisoners and that the county has an average of close to 40 people incarcerated in the county jail on any given day.
Most of the county's prisoners, he pointed out, are staying in other county jails at a significant cost to the county.
James Woodrum offered up the first option his company compiled, construction of a jail at a cost of over $6 million, plus the cost of the land and its preparation for the building.
"If you build a new jail your cost is going to go up," he told the audience.
He compared the present budget, which though on paper is about $600,000 he said the county judge has told him it is likely to exceed $700,000 this year.
The cost to operate the new 109-bed facility would be about $967,000 a year.
Woodrum said that though the additional bed space could house prisoners the county would be paid for the cost of manning the new facility and of caring for the prisoners would significantly outweigh that income.
When the financing costs for building that jail were added in Woodrum told the court they were looking at about a $ 1.1 million dollar a year expenditure.
The other two options cost over $8 million for building costs, not including purchase and preparation of the 3- to 5-acre site needed for the jail.
The second option was increasing the building's size to 178 beds, to house more prisoners for the state and other counties.
In the end, the second option resulted in a $1.13 million yearly final expense for the county, according to the consultants' figures.
The third option would again increase the size of the jail, this time to 203 permanent beds.
That option, they indicated, could house enough prisoners that the county would see a total jail net expenditure of $941,840 until the financing was paid off in 2030.
During his presentation Woodrum told the court members that the projections were based on trends and did not take into account the options presently being examined by state officials.
He said they were considering raising the bar for what constitutes a felony, meaning more county prisoners and fewer state prisoners.
The state recently announced an initiative that would move more non-violent, class D felony offenders, from state prisoners to electronic monitoring programs.
In the end the members of the court directed the firm to bring back two other sets of figures.
They indicated they wanted to see what it would cost the county if there was no jail and all the prisoners were housed in other counties.
A big enough jail to break even was another option they asked the firm to bring to their next fiscal Court meeting, which is expected to be on June 2nd.
The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
P.O. Box 190
120 Wilson St.
Russell Springs KY 42642
Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
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Jamestown KY 42629