The Norman Transcript

February 7, 2013

Inmate housing costs currently higher than state reimbursements

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — With the new calendar year under way, Cleveland County’s elected leadership is looking at cost-efficient means of housing prisoners.

Commissioners also will consider adding prayer to the commission agenda as well as other procedural changes, including moving the Board of County Commissioners meeting to Monday afternoons. Also under consideration is an automated agenda system that would make county government more transparent and accessible online.

Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester said Oklahoma Department of Corrections reimbursments are about half of what it costs to house prisoners in the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center. As of Monday morning, 389 prisoners were being housed in the county jail facility. Of those, 88 are DOC prisoners, with 71 already processed with judgment and sentencing.

Those 71 prisoners are awaiting transport to a DOC facility as soon as the space is available. In the meantime, the state must reimburse the county for their expenses. That rate is set by statute at $27, Lester told Cleveland County Commissioners at Monday’s meeting.

Estimates from two years ago indicate that housing prisoners costs Cleveland County $54 per day, Lester said.

Currently, cities throughout Cleveland County pay $45 per day to house their prisoners at F. DeWayne Beggs.

“We’ll refigure the fee,” Lester said. “Whatever that cost is will be the new fee.”

Commissioner Rusty Sullivan, District 3, said the cost is lower in other counties. He asked if Cleveland County could save money by transferring those prisoners to other counties that would bill the state directly.

“I’m just trying to figure out some way to help save money,” Sullivan said.

Lester said he would not be comfortable with transferring prisoners to other counties. He questioned whether Cleveland County could be held liable if a prisoner sued because of poor care in another county’s facility.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Robertson said he would research the matter but did not think the county would be liable if another county took custody.

In Kay County, the detention facility is operated by the Jail Trust Authority rather than the sheriff. In that county, Director Jody Burd is appointed to operate the jail.

Burd said it costs Kay County about $32 per day per prisoner. With 166 prisoners in the facility as of Tuesday, that jail could accommodate a number of Cleveland County’s DOC prisoners if needed.

Burd told The Transcript he would be happy to assist another county. The Kay County Detention Center opened in 2010 and was designed by Architects in Partnership of Norman, the same company that designed the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center.

Burd said only a handful of detention centers in Oklahoma are operated by directors governed by jail trust authorities, but some sheriffs like being able to focus on enforcement rather than detention.

In other county business, board chair Rod Cleveland presented a 10-point recommendation for agenda and meeting procedure changes. Those proposals include opening the meeting with a prayer prior to the flag salute and changing the meeting time from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays.

Other housekeeping suggestions would move preparing and posting the Board of County Commissioners agenda from the County Clerk’s Office to the County Commissioner’s Office.

Many of the housekeeping suggestions could be taken care of through the implementation of an automated agenda program. Commissioner Darry Stacy suggested that option be explored first.

“I’ve looked at two different systems,” said County Clerk Tammy Belinson, who has consulted with Cleveland on the matter. One of those is a provider used by Canadian County and would include website management.

“We need to get IT involved in this,” Sullivan said.

The items will be taken under consideration at a future meeting.

Cleveland also presented a proposal from AIP of Norman. The proposal is to assess the Cleveland County Courthouse campus and other county buildings to determine future maintenance needs. Cost for the assessment was broken down by building. Cleveland said some of the buildings could be left off if a contract is awarded.

Twenty-one buildings are included, for a total cost of $17,500. Some, such as the health department buildings in Norman and Moore, are owned by the county but maintained by the state and would likely be removed from the list. The jail was included as an item, but since it is a newer facility and reports and schedules are up-to-date, no charge was included for that building.

Cleveland proposed the assessment to plan for future maintenance budgeting. The matter was tabled so commissioners could take it under advisement.

County commissioners approved a $587,250 contract with A-Tech Paving for south parking lot improvements. The security and drainage issues, utilities relocations and masonry made it more feasible to bid the project out to a general contractor instead of doing it in-house, commissioners said.

County commissioners approved the following Blanket Purchase Orders:

· County Commissioners: State Auditor & Inspector (OSU) $300

· District 1 Warehouse:OLG $4,000; Palace Auto Supply Inc. $3,500; Perfection Equipment Company Inc. $500

· District 2 Warehouse: Don’s Mobil Lock Shop Inc. $500; Fred’s Tire & Battery LLC $2,000; Star Fuel of Oklahoma LLC $2,500; Maxwell Supply Company $750; C&P Auto Electric $750; Interstate Batteries $500; MHC Kenworth-Oklahoma City $1,000; Metro Glass Inc. $1,000; Noble Farm and Building Supply LLC $5,000

· District 3 Warehouse: Dub Ross Company $500; P&K Equipment Inc. $2,000

· OSU Extension Center: Bernina of Oklahoma City South $200

· Fair Board: Eureka Water Company $300

· Health Department: Sanofi Pasteur $5,000; Copelin’s Office Center $10,000

· County Sheriff’s Office: Elite Equipment Company Inc.$300; Overhead Door Company of OKC Inc. $300; Aramark Correctional Services LLC $ 38,000 and $27,000

· County Clerk’s Office: State Auditor & Inspector (OSU) $600

Joy Hampton

366-3539

jhampton@

normantranscript.com

 

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