The Board of Corrections delayed its decision Tuesday on a request to change the Franklin County jail back to a full-service operation. The state changed the jail’s mission to a 72-hour holding facility in 2009 as part of a consolidated county jail system.

The board had until Sept. 11, 90 days from a public hearing on the change on June 12, to make a decision unless another public hearing was scheduled.

The board’s attorney, Andrew Black, recommended a second public hearing be held so the entire panel would be sure to review and comprehend the record.

The hearing was set for Sept. 17 during the board’s next meeting at the Marquardt Building in Augusta. A decision will be made that day.

Franklin County commissioners requested the change of use on Sept. 4, 2012. Jail administration and other county officials have submitted much information since then.

A Corrections Working Group that reviewed the county’s proposal voted April 18 to recommend to the Board of Corrections that the jail be reopened by this past July 1. The recommendation also gave the county the money that had been provided to Somerset County to house Franklin County inmates. Somerset County stopped taking other county’s inmates in March when a dispute with the Board of Corrections occurred.


It was discussed then that the financial affect on the entire system needed to be reviewed.

Working Group member Ralph Nichols, Department of Corrections director of operations, said then that the detention center’s physical plant is in very good shape. He said some minor things might need to be done.

The jail could hold a maximum of 44 inmates if an indoor exercise room was converted, Nichols had said. Without that, it would hold 31 inmates, maximum, he said.

About 100 Franklin County residents turned out for a rally in April in Farmington to support getting the jail back. They also packed a public hearing the board held at the University of Maine at Farmington in June. There was no opposition and the Board of Corrections received no opposing comments in writing.

Board of Corrections Chairman Mark Westrum said he was not comfortable making a decision Tuesday on the mission change until he hears from financial representatives about the affect on the rest of the jails in the consolidated system.

One board member said Franklin County has jumped through all of the hoops and whatever decision is made, needs to be made in a timely fashion.


What concerns him, Westrum said, is not having the financial information, especially with the news Tuesday that the Board of Corrections only has enough money to fund jails for the first and second quarters of 2013-14 and 25 percent to fund the third and fourth quarter payments.

He questioned what would happen to the system if the $600,000 that Franklin County pays into investment fund is not there. County taxpayers raise $1.6 million annually to run the jail. However, only about $1 million is needed to run it and the rest is sent to the state to be used for other jails. The Legislature capped county funding for jails at the 2008 level prior to the new consolidated system going into place on July 1, 2009.

Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. asked what more information the board needs. Material has been submitted already, he said.

He reviewed the Corrections Working Group’s recommendation. The Franklin County jail has about 28 to 30 prisoners a day and they are housed all over the state, he said.

His transportation officers are working 15 to 20 hours a week overtime and the gas is rivaling his patrol division, he said.

“I’m more concerned that someone is going to get in an accident,” Nichols said.


He also voiced concern over risking a prisoner escape or an inmate being injured.

He also told the board that inmates and their families in Franklin County are getting the short end of the deal. They cannot participate in local work programs to reduce their sentences or take advantage of local services.

He understands the financial dilemmas, Nichols said, and Franklin County is willing to help in any way it can, including having 14 more beds available.

Delaying a decision is not only affecting corrections workers and inmates but also the people who have submitted proposals to provide services, he said.

After more discussion, a consensus was reached to hold another hearing.

“Be prepared to make a decision once and for all,” Westrum said.

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