The McCreary County Record

Local News

December 11, 2012

State DOC officials survey local jail

County officials expect recommendation this week

WHITLEY CITY — County officials are awaiting the fate of the local jail after meeting with the Kentucky Department of Corrections on Thursday.

    DOC Commissioner LaDonna Thompson, Deputy Commissioner of Community Services Paula Holden, Director of Local Facilities Jeff Burton and Jail Services Specialist (inspector) Mike Coomer met with McCreary County Jailer Tony Ball, Judge-Executive Doug Stephens, KACo (Kentucky Association of Counties) attorney Rich Ornstein, and other county officials to tour the aging facility and discuss the state’s concerns about its physical structure and management.

    In August, the county received a report prepared by Burton outlining an array of violations dating back to the first of the year. Judge Stephens told The Record that the DOC scrutiny stemmed from multiple escapes and, most recently, an unflattering county audit. While he has not been notified of any formal decision, Stephens confirmed that he had been advised recently by DOC officials that Commissioner Thompson could possibly recommend closing the McCreary County Jail.

    “We should know something this week,” Judge Stephens said, describing Thursday’s meeting as cordial.

    Jailer Ball said that he feels optimistic after the meeting but acknowledged that he, too, doesn’t know what DOC will finally recommend.

“It’s come to the point where you can’t put any more Band-Aids on a broken leg,” the jailer said.

    Ball said that while Commissioner Thompson appeared to like the corrections which had been implemented since the breakouts, there were concerns about the building’s condition — particularly plumbing, lighting, paint and graffiti.

    He added that his staff had also worked to correct certain forms pertaining to jail operations.

    “I look for [DOC] to leave it to the [fiscal] court to fix the jail as best we can and strive toward building a new jail in the future,” the jailer said.

    Both Stephens and Ball understand the impact that a possible shutdown could have on the county. In addition to the loss of some 15 jobs, Ball called the cost of housing local inmates elsewhere “astronomical.” While Ball would be reclassified as a “Transport Officer,” his salary (which tops $100,000 when including benefits) would not likely change as he is an elected official. The jail’s main source of revenue — a projected $245,000 this fiscal year for the housing of state inmates — would also be lost.

    “If the jail does close, it will be a great burden on the county,” Jailer Ball said.

    Judge Stephens has also expressed concern for the potential loss of state inmates who have worked with the county’s recycling program and other community projects.

    Whatever the final decision, Stephens said he is hopeful that DOC officials will work with the county as they plan for the future.

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