In an effort to cut costs at the new Whitley County Jail, fiscal court members unanimously voted to cap the number of positions at 32 full-time employees.
“32 people should be able to run that facility without any problem,” noted Jim Woodrum, a criminal justice consultant with Architecture Plus, the firm, which designed the new jail.
When asked how many employees Jailer Jerry Taylor says he needs, Woodrum said he hadn’t spoken to Taylor since a special called fiscal court meeting earlier this year, but that Taylor said he could probably run the jail with 34 full-time employees.
Woodrum said that by law, the fiscal court is required to cap the number of employees at the jail.
Taylor was not present for Tuesday’s meeting.
Woodrum also submitted a proposed budget for the jail for the remainder of the fiscal year, which takes into account the cap of 32 full-time employees.
Whitley County Judge-Executive Mike Patrick said the new budget is about $150,000 higher than what the county had previously budgeted for the jail.
Woodrum noted that the proposed budget includes quite a bit of money for medical expenses.
“Medical costs at jails are going through the roof. Not just here, but every where,” he added.
Woodrum added that one area where the county might be able to cut costs is medical expenses. He said county governments are routinely charged 25 to 50 percent higher rates than what Medicare and Medicaid are charged for medical services, and that the county might be able to recoup some of that money through negotiations.
This fall the fiscal court voted to borrow $300,000 to make up for revenue and cash flow shortfalls at the new jail.
Last month after a discussion about pay raises for EMS and 911 employees, the fiscal court implemented a countywide freeze on new hires, except to replace existing employees, and a freeze on pay raises.
Magistrates approved a request to hire a new deputy jailer Tuesday, who was replacing the jail nurse; however, magistrate denied a request to raise the salary of three deputy jailers.
Magistrates also discussed maintenance bills for the new jail.
Patrick said the county initially received bills totaling $20,000 after the jail opened, and that the cost is now up to $28,000.
Woodrum said the part of the problem stemmed from the jail essentially being completed months before it opened, but sitting empty while officials waited for water and sewer lines to be hooked up.
He said some portions of the jail deteriorated during that time, and that since many contractors had already left it was easier for some to subcontract out the repairs.
How much of the money is owed by contractors and how much the fiscal court will have to pay remains undecided.
Patrick said he is hoping to get the original contractors to pay 50 percent of the original $20,000 bill.
Woodrum estimates that it will cost the county about $21,000 a year in maintenance costs for the new $5 million facility.
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