PARIS — County commissioners approved the release of a payment to the Maine Board of Corrections’ investment fund at its Oct. 15 meeting, but cautioned that further payments will depend on the performance of the state’s jail system.
Oxford County pays $187,073 annually to the fund, which goes to offset the additional cost of housing inmates in other county facilities. When the jail system was consolidated in 2009, Oxford County Jail in South Paris became a 72-hour holding facility, and longer-term inmates are now housed in neighboring counties.
According to County Administrator Scott Cole, the fund payment is meant to represent the savings accrued by downgrading to a holding facility.
The state’s jail network relies on county property taxes that have remained flat since 2009. State funds are meant to pay the difference between the frozen 2009 funding and actual budget numbers.
The county makes two $93,536 payments to the fund in December and April.
Cole, along with jail Administrator Capt. Ed Quinn and Sheriff Wayne Gallant, encouraged commissioners to approve December’s payment to the Board of Corrections. All three cautioned against following the example set by Franklin County commissioners, who voted to withhold their fund payment in late September.
At this point, it wouldn’t help Oxford County to withhold payments just to make a statement, Cole told commissioners.
Quinn, however, cautioned that depending on possible cost overruns in the coming months, the commissioners may contemplate keeping the April payment.
If other county jails begin refusing Oxford inmates because of their own budget concerns, costs at his facility would skyrocket, Quinn cautioned.
“If all these other jails are flat-funded and they lose their staff, it’s going to be critical for us,” he told commissioners.