Inmates in the Letcher County Jail could soon see a change in their meals.
At this week’s January meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court, jail and county officials discussed instituting a 60-day trial period to contract with a company that specializes in feeding inmates.
Jailer Bert Slone said he has looked at bidding meals for the jail, and he estimates it can save a substantial amount. He said he will look at all options carefully, but won’t make a change that doesn’t maintain a high standard for inmate food. Slone said later the jail has always fed its inmates well and has a good reputation for its food service.
Currently, the jail buys food that trustees cook as part of their rehabilitation.
Court members were generally enthusiastic about the possibility of savings on the jail’s food budget, but several said it’s important to remember that inmates should be fed proper, nutritious meals. According to Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit that specializes on research on issues related to incarceration, the average cost for daily meals in American prisons is $8.12.
County jails also face a dual set of issues in the area of prisoner population. A large number of prisoners in county jails have already been convicted of crimes that should put them in a state facility, but overcrowding in state prisons means that many are waiting for space to open up before they can be moved. The large number of state prisoners in county jails causes costs to be higher, but at the same time, many counties depend on the money the state pays them to house the prisoners.
At the end of 2018, about half of Kentucky’s 24,136 inmate population was housed in county jails, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported last year. Slone said his numbers have been reduced somewhat and the county now has 100 inmates, down from an average of 135 to 140. Nonviolent offenders are also being released on probation more frequently.
The court authorized Slone to take bids, but Judge Terry Adams said it is important to realize that inmates are still human beings. Adams praised one work-release inmate who had been working with the county road department, but is close to being released. Adams said he had been an exemplary worker and said he will be missed. Slone said the inmate work release program is the most publicly visible part of the jail, and the most popular. He added that inmates are usually enthusiastic at an opportunity to get outside and have something to do, so they go above and beyond on the work they are assigned. Inmates must volunteer for work release and meet certain criteria.
The Commissary Fund pays for gas and supplies, including work clothes and tools, and part of the salary paid to the guards for work release inmates. It also funds the salary for a pharmacy technician to prepare and distribute prescribed medication to inmates. The Commissary Fund is made up of money generated by selling sundries, snacks, and other supplies to inmates, other than what is supplied by the jail. It is not generated by tax money. On December 1, 2019, the Commissary Fund had $93,539,70 and at the end of December, it had 94,213.36.
The jail began December 2019 with a balance of $75,790.78 and finished the month with a balance of $72,398.13. Revenue receipts from various sources were $42,222.45 and the county transferred an additional $75,000 to the Jail Fund for a total of $193,013.23. Total disbursements (expenditures) were $120,615.10.
In other business, the court heard from Michael Blair who has been working on a memorial to police officers who have died in the line of duty. Blair presented pictures of three memorial statues to the court for approval. He said the cost will be about $4,500 for any of them, including installation and name placement. Blair said he favors a triangular based monument, and that he had held off on fund raising efforts until a decision is reached and a price is set.
Letcher County Treasurer Doris Jean Frazier said the county will need to establish a separate account for funds to be deposited in. Blair said that will work best because he would prefer not to handle donations directly. He also said that none of the costs for the memorial will come from taxpayer money. Those interested in donating to the fund can call the Letcher County Judge’s Office at 606-633-2129.
Letcher County Sheriff Mickey Stines told the court he will present his complete budget at the next meeting. He said his 2019 budget featured receipts of $740,650, with expenditures of $740,350, leaving an excess of $300.00. Stines followed County Court Clerk Winston Meade who presented the court with a reconciliation check for $9,000 against gross receipts for 2019 of $5,551,138.32 and disbursements of $5,534,222.15, with a balance of $16,916.17. The payment to the court of $9,000 leaves a balance of $7,916.17, which will be held pending the audit. Stines joked that if he had a budget like Meade’s, he would give the county money too,
Letcher County Coroner Renee Campbell asked the court to approve the purchase of a software program to allow her to participate in the Coroner ME Program, a statewide web-based management and statistical reporting software program that has been developed for coroners and medical examiners. Campbell showed the court the paperwork for one case, a sheaf of paper almost an inch and a half thick. She said that although she handled over 100 cases in 2019, she still has to do everything on paper and currently has no access to an Internet program. Campbell said the current system is antiquated and outmoded, and allows for the possible release of sensitive information. The online system would decrease that risk to nearly nothing and would allow the coroner’s office to access information anywhere WIFI is available. The software is secure and protected.
The court voted unanimously to authorize the initial payment of $2,025, which includes $1,750 for the software, and the first annual maintenance fee of $300.00. Campbell said the computer she has in her office now is an old one and does not have the capability to run the program. The court authorized her to purchase a computer, and County Finance Officer Virginia Williams will work with Campbell to find one that is suitable.
The county will participate in a waste tire collection program this summer on June 4, 5, and 6. Tires may be taken to the old Swanee Tipple at Isom. They will accept all car and truck tires, except for large OTR tires, tracks, sheet rubber, solid or filled tires, or any tire with a bead larger than 1-3/4 inches. Tires that are still on the rim will also be accepted. Go cart, farm implement, ATV, and bicycle tires will be accepted, as will truck and passenger car tires.
County Treasurer Doris Jean Frazier delivered her first report of the year and praised Fiscal Court Clerk Bobbi Eldridge, who also handles billing for the Sanitation Department. Frazier said sanitation collections are up by $217,000 for 2019, and the sanitation deficit has been reduced to under $50,000. Judge Adams said that all their equipment, including pick-up and packer trucks, is antiquated and well past its replacement date. Fourth District Magistrate William (Cheddy) Smith, who served as County Road Foreman before his retirement, said that equipment can only be rebuilt so many times before it just won’t hold together, and the sanitation equipment is getting there.
Judge Adams said county expenditures for 2019 included a lot of equipment repairs, not only on road and sanitation equipment, but also on the Letcher County Recreation Center, which also has aging equipment. He said the court bought three trucks in 2019. Frazier said the services the county provides are very important to Letcher County citizens and the quality of life.
The court also voted unanimously to remove the following cemetery roads from the County Roads list: Frazier Cemetery Road, Ingram Creek Cemetery Road, Big Cowan/Maggard Cemetery Road, Fields Meade Cemetery Road, Lynville Adams Cemetery Road.
The court voted unanimously to honor the following veterans by adding them to the Blackey Memorial Board: Gunnery Sergeant Larry Caudill U.S. Marine Corps, Gary “Peewee” Caudill, United States Marine Corps, Quartermaster Third Class Michael Caudill, U.S, Navy, Corporal Andy Tipton Jr. , United States Marine Corps, Sergeant Jerry D. Caudill, United States Marine Corps, and Lowell T. Caudill, United States Army.
Bank Balances for County Agencies as of December 31, 2019
General Fund: $771,606.96
Road and Bridge Fund: $757,674.03
Jail Fund: $72,398.13
LGEA Fund: $281,700.31
Senior Citizens Fund: $228.99
Forestry Fund: $18,364.20