A committee made up of members from the four counties plan to meet.

AUBURN – Officials from five counties met Thursday to discuss future needs and the possibility of a regional jail to save each of the counties money.

County commissioners and sheriff’s department representatives from Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties agreed to study the needs and feasibility of a consolidation of jail services and a regional detention center.

A steering committee made up of one representative from each of the counties will meet in South Paris July 17 to discuss specifics of the proposal.

“In Virginia they’ve made a regional jail authority with the sheriffs of all of the participating counties,” said Capt. John Lebel, Androscoggin County Jail administrator.

He stressed that all counties that might participate in a regional authority here should be treated equally.

“The last thing Oxford (County) wants is for the administration to be absorbed by Androscoggin and Kennebec counties,” Lebel said.

He added that legislation may be necessary to create an authority.

“The group is going to have to decide what that regional makeup is going to be,” said Oxford County Sheriff Skip Herrick. The Oxford County Commission was not represented at the meeting. “They certainly realize that something is going to have to be done. I think Oxford County is on board.”

Somerset County Jail Administrator Stephen Giggey said it would cost the rural county $17 million to build a new 120-bed facility.

Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Guy Desjardins said each county would have to address the cost of a study before the next budget year.

All five counties have calendar year budgets and the budget committees will be meeting later this year. “I think we all have to step up to the line right now,” Desjardins said.

Franklin County would be very receptive, said Franklin County Commissioner Gary McGrane. “My suggestion would be a needs assessment. What does Androscoggin County need? What does Oxford County need?”

While there were different opinions, all agreed that a needs and feasibility study would be the next step. Most agreed that the cost of such a study could be in excess of $100,000 – about $25,000 per county.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to go to the Budget Committee and say we need $25,000,” said Androscoggin County Commissioner Elmer Berry.

A motion for the group to ask each of the five county commissions for $25,000 passed unanimously.

The group also discussed Gov. John Baldacci’s tax package, which includes proposals for consolidation of government services. Several people said a consolidation of jails could fit that plan.

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