AUBURN — Androscoggin County commissioners have given up looking for immediate savings inside the county jail, saying any more cuts would violate law or endanger the safety of inmates and corrections officers.

“We’re basically going to throw ourselves to the governor and say, ‘Look, what do we do?’” Chairman Randall Greenwood said. “We got through last year with some additional funding. We’re in it again.”

The problem is lack of state funding, he said.

In December, Maine’s Board of Corrections approved an $80.3 million budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. It’s about $3.7 million shy of the $84 million that county officials across the state said they needed to get by without closing sections of their jails or laying off employees.

In Androscoggin County, it’s a gap of about $290,000.

As the budget now stands, the jail is due to run out of money by the start of June.


The Legislature is working on a fix to the system that may include more money. But that is uncertain. And Sheriff Guy Desjardins said Tuesday that he’s been warned of additional state shortfalls that could force cuts that would make the problem more severe.

“We just don’t have the money,” Desjardins said. “I can’t cut $290,000. I’d have to lay off the staff. There would be nobody to watch the jail.”

Commissioners say they looked at several possible ways to cut costs. In recent weeks, they re-examined how food was prepared and served inside the jail and met with District Attorney Norman Croteau to discuss saving money by establishing video arraignments.

Neither discussion discovered savings, particularly savings that could be felt right away.

“We would have to lay out quite a bit of money for little return,” Commissioner Elaine Makas said.

“I’m not sure if there is anything we can do on such short notice,” Makas said. “As far as I’m concerned, this is a nightmare. Had we known earlier, maybe we could have done something.”

About $1.2 million of the Androscoggin County Jail’s $5.4 million budget comes from the state. The rest is paid by local taxpayers and is strictly capped at $4.2 million.

Makas hopes the state can find the money to help the jails.

“If the governor can find a million to pay for a consultant to say what he’s hoping he will say about Medicaid expansion, why not come up with $1.9 million so our jails can run safely?” she said.

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