Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 8, 2013

Commissions: Will jail system surplus reduce county costs?


 — News that West Virginia’s regional jail system has a $24 million surplus is making county commissions want to know more about the money’s purpose and whether it means that reducing what they are charged for keeping inmates in regional jails is possible.

A former sheriff, Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, recently learned from Regional Jail Authority Director Joe DeLong that the agency has a $24 million surplus. Laird said when hearing of the surplus that it would be some real concern to local units of government.

Southern West Virginia counties often have back bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mike Vinciguerra, president of the Mercer County Commission, estimated that the county owes close to $800,000 to the jail authority.

“It may be a little off, but that would be pretty close,” he said. “We’ve budgeted $1.5 million.”

The county now pays $140,000 to $150,000 a month to house inmates at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver, Vinciguerra said.

It currently cost the county $48.80 a day to house a prisoner, but there is the hope that by July 1, this could drop by 55 cents a day to $48.25, he said.

Any action that could reduce the amount of money the counties have to pay for jail services would be welcomed.

“That’s a big drain on our county,” Vinciguerra said. “It limits us with what we can do with other things.

Commissioner Gene Buckner reducing the amount of money counties pay the regional jail authority “would be great. Whether or not that gets done is another story. That money is possibly going into the state’s general fund.”

The money the jail system is amassing comes from the counties, he said.

“If they got that money left over, surely they could cut the money (paid for services) down,” Buckner said.

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