FARMINGTON — Some lights are off and a paper sign hangs on the front door of the Franklin County Detention Center Wednesday morning posting a number for visitors to call.
On this first day of the changeover to a 72-hour holding facility, there are no inmates at the center, Sheriff Dennis Pike said. The few arrested in the last couple of days made bail or were transported to the Somerset facility before midnight Tuesday.
The jail hasn’t been empty since the facility was opened in 1983, he added.
For the two guards on duty Wednesday and acting detention center manager, Sandra Collins, the day was starting off very quiet.
“I feel like I’m working in a ghost town,” Collins said, as she tried to keep busy cleaning out the intake desk and files. That feeling could change at any time but for the next couple weeks, any arrests that don’t result in bail within a 12-hour period will be transported to Somerset. They will be taken over and then we’ll go get them for court, she said.
The state plans to bring inmate workers from the Maine Correction Center in South Windham and two supervisors to the facility starting July 7 to do some renovations, Pike said. Those inmate workers will become my guests, he added.
For Pike, who joined the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department in 1989, and Collins, who has worked there 24-years becoming jail administrator in 1999, each has seen a number of changes prior to this final change to a 72-hour holding facility.
When this facility opened there was a greater capacity to house inmates but the old jail was easier to manage, said Pike, who has nearly 50 years of experience in law enforcement. The opening in 1983 was a significant change, he added. The facility was built at a cost of $1.5 million which would probably mean $10 million today to replace.
From contracting a food service those first years to hiring cooks for the jail in the late 1990s, there’s been constant change.
One of the biggest came when the facility stopped housing juveniles in 1997, Collins said.
The officers also underwent crisis intervention training three years ago to meet the increasing need to deal with mental health issues.
Over the years, the population of inmates has also changed. They have become increasingly more violent with more drug related offenses, more domestic violence and the average age of the inmates has dropped from being in their 30s to now more in their 20s, she said.
In the last few years, the facility has housed an average of about 30 inmates most of the time.
From a business sense, it’s hard to defend the cost of housing an inmate for the county compared to the $20.53 per inmate in Somerset, Pike said while questioning Somerset’s ability to continue with that rate.
“Some changes done with the best of intentions are doomed to failure,” he said. “My biggest fear … if the holding facility is unsuccessful … (the detention center) will probably never come back.”
He said he would like nothing more than to be wrong.
One of the hardest things he has had to do during his career was to lay off nine employees from the detention center prior to Wednesday’s change, he said.

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