AUGUSTA — Officials from Maine’s jail system asked legislators Wednesday for a $2.5 million bailout, saying the money would help jails make it to the end of June.
But more will be needed next year, they said.
This year’s flat-funded budgets weren’t enough to operate the system’s 15 jails, Mark Westrum, chairman of the State Board of Corrections, told the Appropriations Committee.
The state has failed to fund county bonds on some of the state’s newer jails and has forced the system to defer needed repairs, he said.
“A lot of jails are old, they’re decaying and they need some major capital improvements,” Westrum said.
Committee Co-Chairwoman Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said she planned to hold a special meeting of the committee to examine the debt questions and their effect on the system.
Afterward, Westrum and Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins said they were pleased with the meeting. After all, no one on the committee lectured them about the ongoing budget crisis facing the Legislature before its session ends April 15.
“I feel good about this meeting,” Westrum said. “But just because I feel good doesn’t mean the supplemental will happen.”
Without the bailout, Desjardins figures the Androscoggin County Jail will run out of money by May, maybe sooner.
Westrum, who serves as administrator of the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, said he is struggling to make payroll. He was forced to ask his counties — Sagadahoc and Lincoln — to forward him money last week to pay his officers.
This week alone, four corrections officers in his jail have resigned because of the uncertainty there, he said.
“They’re tired,” Westrum said.