Maine corrections board to meet with Franklin County commissioners

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FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners will meet with representatives of the state Board of Corrections on Tuesday, Oct. 7, to discuss the additional $100,000 the board wants the county to pay for the jail.

It is expected other matters related to the jail will also be discussed at the 9 a.m. meeting at the Commissioners Office at the Franklin County Courthouse.

Commissioners voted unanimously in August to deduct $50,000 from the state Board of Corrections request of $365,288 for the first half of a 2014-15 major mission change payment.

Commissioners decided to pay $315,288 for the first payment. The same amount was paid last year in two equal payments for a total of $630,576.

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The county is expected to be billed by the Board of Corrections for $730,576 for 2014-15.

In June, the Board of Corrections requested Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. to send the additional $100,000 after the board learned the county had $447,000 in surplus.

Nichols and Commission Chairman Fred Hardy of New Sharon refused to send the money, telling the board that they had no legal right to ask for more. The county is allowed to build a surplus under the law, according to them.

The Board of Corrections reduced the county’s budget by $100,000 and billed it for the $100,000.

Commissioners set up $210,000 of the surplus in July in reserve accounts that included money to replace the jail roof.

On Sept. 23, commissioners discussed the upcoming October visit by representatives of the Board of Corrections, including Executive Director Ryan Thornell.

County Clerk Julie Magoon attended a Sept. 19 meeting of the Board of Corrections with other county representatives. Magoon told commissioners the board is wondering if the reason the jail has such a big surplus is because of Community Corrections Account money that the county continues to receive.

The jail’s mission changed in 2009 from a full-time jail to a 72-hour holding facility when the state consolidated county jails into one system.

Franklin County continues to receive about $135,000 annually in Community Corrections Account funds for programs and services since the change.

The money is paid in two payments, Deputy Clerk/Deputy Treasurer Vickie Braley said.

However, the jail no longer has programs to offer inmates because if they haven’t bailed within 72 hours, they are taken to Somerset County Jail in Madison.

The program that Franklin County offers is Maine Pretrial Services and the approximately $68,000 for that program is paid through the regular jail budget, Magoon said.

The county raises $1.62 million in taxes annually to run the jail. It costs about $1 million to operate the jail and the remaining $600,000 is sent to the state to help other jails. It is a cap developed by the state in 2008 when the county jail system consolidated.

Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said Sept. 23 that he hadn’t realized the county was still getting Community Corrections Account money.

The Board of Corrections went into executive session on Sept. 19 with Assistant Attorney General Andrew Black to discuss taking legal action against the county for not paying the first half of the additional $100,000, Magoon said. In public session the board decided not to take it, she said.

McGrane is in favor of paying the additional $100,000 because he wants to help the consolidated system to get out of debt and is concerned that the state will close the jail as was initially discussed by the state in 2008.

Hardy previously said he is against paying it.

Magoon said the board discussed doing a five-year review of the jails.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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