AUGUSTA — A measure to reopen the Franklin County Detention Center as a full-service jail, this time with a stipulation that the Maine Legislature appropriate more money, was defeated Tuesday by the state Board of Corrections.

After nearly two hours of debate, the measure drew only a single vote of the nine-member board.

“Everybody in the world seems to think it’s a good idea,” said the lone supporter, Aroostook County Administrator Douglas Beaulieu. He had hoped to awaken legislative support by tying the expansion of the county jail system directly to its appropriation.

“If you want to support us, then put your money where your mouth is,” Beaulieu said, challenging lawmakers. “I’m just changing the approach because what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked.”

The board was scheduled Tuesday to examine bids by both Franklin and Oxford counties to reopen their jails, which were reclassified in 2009 as 72-hour holding facilities rather than jails. The board did not examine the Oxford request. Rather, it focused on the Franklin County request and last month’s denial to the county from the state board.

“If the funding was there, we probably would have approved it,” said Mark Westrum, the board’s chairman. “But the funding wasn’t there.”


The board also heard testimony on the current budget situation from Scott Ferguson, the director of the Corrections Service Center of the Maine Department of Corrections.

It was gloomy. By the end of the year, the system is expected to be at least $2 million in debt, Ferguson said.

He also tracked how spending has risen in the system since the network was created in 2009.

In 2008, before the change occurred, Mainers spent $73.7 million on their jails. In 2009, funding rose by 2 percent to $75.2 million. In 2010, is was given a 2.6 percent hike and 2.4 percent the following year. The 2012 budget rose by only 1 percent. In 2013, spending reached $80 million with a rise of just 0.6 percent.

Totals for the current year show a surge to more than $84 million. Virtually all the increases over these years is owed to personnel costs inside the jails, costs associated to salaries, health care and retirement, Ferguson said.

And they are costs that the Board of Corrections cannot control. Rather, they are controlled by each county and its contracts with its workers.


Westrum said he worries how these numbers will be received by legislators when few state workers have had increases in recent years.

And, he insisted that the board’s inability to control those personnel costs limits its authority to change budgets at jails statewide.

“I think the message that we need the Legislature to hear is that this board — right, wrong or indifferent — is hamstrung,” Westrum said.

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