The Times West Virginian

Local News

February 13, 2014

Jail costs for counties ‘out of sight’

Marion working with alternatives to achieve savings

FAIRMONT — Jail costs are an issue many counties face, and Marion County is no different.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Marion County Commission, president Butch Tennant said the monthly cost of using the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County went down in January.

“It’s down to $121,879,” he said. “That might not sound like it’s down, but it is.”

Earlier this week, Tennant and Commissioner Ernie VanGilder were in Charleston to meet with other commissioners from around the state. Tennant said jail costs was a big topic of discussion.

“Everyone’s jail costs are out of sight,” he said. “But they are dropping.”

Tennant said it costs 50 cents a day for an inmate to be held at the jail in Doddridge County. Paying for vehicle necessities such as gas and annual maintenance are additional costs.

In the month of January, Tennant said Marion County paid for 2,526 days of people being incarcerated in Doddridge County.

Tennant said the more the jail at the Marion County Sheriff’s Department is used, the more the costs go down for using the regional jail.

Commissioner Randy Elliott said the county was paying an average of more than $150,000 a month in jail costs.

“As you can see, we can do a lot with the money we save for projects in Marion County,” he said.

Elliott touched on other alternatives the county is doing rather than sending inmates to Doddridge County, including home confinement and the use of the Day Report Center.

Elliott said the Day Report Center works off grant money and has been very successful.

“The best thing about that is individuals get treatment and education,” he said. “They have to go to classes; they have to report every day. Instead of putting them in Doddridge County, they can turn their life around.”

Elliott said that using what Marion County has is saving taxpayers money.

“You have to arrest the bad guys, and there’s no place to put them except in jail unless you have an alternative program, which we do here in Marion County,” he said.

VanGilder said one of the other issues discussed in their Charleston trip was revenue shortage. He said another official in the state presented what it would cost through the regional jail system to render facilities and compared it to what it costs on the state level.

“The differences were staggering,” VanGilder said. “He was saying we need to run it more like a business, and I agree with him 100 percent.”

VanGilder said it is difficult to run it like a business because of the legislative process, but it is possible. He said he would like to do that in Marion County.

Also at the meeting, Sabrina Haught, captain emeritus at the Marion County 911 Center, announced that the center will be using Sparky as its character to teach public safety this year. She said Sparky was away at college and is in a whole new world, giving up sniffing fire hydrants and chasing cars to help educate young kids.

Haught said over the years the center has used other characters such as Patches and Pumper to teach more than 2,500 children each year how to dial 911.

Marion County Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Chris McIntyre said the center didn’t want to have the same show every year.

“We know that we’re doing a positive thing in the community, and the kids love these programs,” he said.

In other business:

• Charlie Reese, director of the Marion County Development Office, gave commissioners an update on the riverfront development at Palatine Park. He said they are still working to get permitting.

Reese said the bathrooms for the park are being built and will be the first thing to be placed in the park.

“They will be concrete, and when they are finished, they will be shipped over here and simply put in place and be hooked up,” he said.

• McIntyre said with the terrible weather Marion County has seen so far this winter, the county and Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission have been very helpful with clearing roads to allow emergency vehicles to access incidents.

He said with carbon monoxide incident earlier this week at a Marcellus shale pump station near Grant Town, emergency vehicles were unable to get to the location because of the weather conditions. He said with the help of plows and salt, emergency vehicles were able to access the station.

“We were very pleased that that worked out well,” McIntyre said.

McIntyre said since January, the 911 center has had 30 calls regarding carbon monoxide poisoning.

“We’re very concerned about that,” he said. “It’s a very serious and dangerous issue.”

McIntyre said he thinks because the weather has been so cold, it’s causing more problems with people breathing in carbon monoxide inside their homes.

• The next meeting will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the J. Harper Meredith Building in Fairmont.

Email Emily Gallagher at egallagher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.

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