The Moore American

February 13, 2013

County jail costs higher than state reimbursement

By Joy Hampton
The Moore American

MOORE — With the new calendar year underway, Cleveland County’s elected leadership is looking at cost-efficient means of housing jail prisoners.

Commissioners also will consider adding prayer to the commission agenda as well as other procedural changes including moving the Board of County Commissioners meeting to Monday afternoons. Also under consideration is an automated agenda system that would make county government more transparent and accessible online.

Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester said Oklahoma Department of Corrections reimbursements are about half of what it costs to house prisoners in the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center. As of Monday morning, 389 prisoners were being housed in the county jail facility. Of those, 88 are DOC prisoners with 71 already processed with judgment and sentencing.

Those 71 prisoners are awaiting transport to a DOC facility as soon as the space is available. In the meantime, the state must reimburse the county for their expenses. That rate is set by statute at $27 Lester told Cleveland County Commissioners at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday.

Estimates from two years ago indicate housing prisoners costs Cleveland County $54 per day and that cost is low, Lester said.

Currently, cities throughout Cleveland County pay $45 per day for housing their prisoners at F. DeWayne Beggs.

“We’ll refigure the fee,” Lester said. “Whatever that cost is will be the new fee.”

Commissioner Rusty Sullivan, District 3, said the cost is lower in other counties. He asked if Cleveland County could save money by transferring those prisoners to other counties who would bill the state directly.

“I’m just trying to figure out some way to help save money,” Sullivan said.

Lester said he would not be comfortable with that. He questioned whether Cleveland County could be held liable if a prisoner sued because of poor care in another county’s facility.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Robertson said he would research the matter, but he did not think the county would be liable if another county took custody of the prisoners.

In Kay County, the detention facility is operated by the Jail Trust Authority rather than the sheriff. In that county, Director Jody Burd is appointed to operate the jail. He said it costs Kay County about $32 per day per prisoner. With 166 prisoners in the facility as of Tuesday, that jail could accommodate a number of Cleveland County’s DOC prisoners if needed.

Burd said he would be happy to assist another county. The Kay County Detention Center opened in 2010. It was designed by Architects in Partnership of Norman, the same company that designed the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center.

Burd said only a handful of detention centers in Oklahoma are operated by directors governed by jail trust authorities, but some sheriffs like being able to focus on enforcement rather than detention.

In other county business, board chair Rod Cleveland presented a 10 point recommendation for agenda and meeting procedure changes. Those proposals include opening the meeting with a prayer prior to the flag salute and changing the meeting time from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday. Other housekeeping suggestions would move preparing and posting the Board of County Commissioners agenda from the County Clerk’s Office to the County Commissioner’s Office.

Many of the housekeeping suggestions could be taken care of through implementing an automated agenda program and Commissioner Darry Stacy suggested that option be explored first.

“I’ve looked at two different systems,” said County Clerk Tammy Belinson who has consulted with Cleveland on the matter.

One of those is a provider used by Canadian County and would include website management.

“We need to get IT involved in this,” said Sullivan.

The items will be taken under consideration at a future meeting.

Cleveland also presented a proposal from AIP of Norman which designed the county detention facility. The proposal is to assess the Cleveland County Courthouse campus and other county buildings to determine future maintenance needs. Cost for the assessment was broken down by building, and Commissioner Cleveland said some of the buildings could be left off if a contract is awarded.

There are 21 buildings included for a total cost of $17,500. Some, such as the health department buildings in Norman and Moore are owned by the county but maintained by the state and would likely be removed from the list. The jail was included as an item, but as it is a new facility the maintenance report and schedule are current and would not need to be updated so no charge was included for that building.

Cleveland proposed the assessment to plan for future maintenance budgeting. The matter was tabled so commissioners could take it under advisement.

Commissioners approved a $587,250 contract with A-Tech Paving for south parking lot improvements. The security and drainage issues, utilities relocations and masonry made it more feasible to bid the project out to a general contractor instead of doing it in-house, said commissioners.

Commissioners approved the following Blanket Purchase Orders:

· County Commissioners: State Auditor & Inspector (OSU) $300

· District 1 Warehouse: OLG $4,000; Palace Auto Supply, Inc. $3,500; Perfection Equipment Company, Inc. $500

· District 2 Warehouse: Don’s Mobil Lock Shop Inc. $500; Fred’s Tire & Battery, LLC $2,000; Star Fuel of Oklahoma LLC $2,500; Maxwell Supply Company $750; C & P Auto Electric $750; Interstate Batteries $500; MHC Kenworth-Oklahoma City $1,000; Metro Glass Inc. $1,000; Noble Farm and Building Supply, LLC $5,000

· District 3 Warehouse: Dub Ross Company $500; P & K Equipment, Inc. $2,000

· OSU Extension Center: Bernina of Oklahoma City South $200

· Fair Board: Eureka Water Company $300

· Health Department: Sanofi Pasteur $5,000; Copelin’s Office Center $10,000

· County Sheriff’s Office:Elite Equipment Company, Inc.$300; Overhead Door Company of OKC, Inc. $300; Aramark Correctional Services, LLC $ 38,000 and $27,000