Breathitt eyes regional partnership in jail
by Cris Ritchie
The Breathitt County Fiscal Court is considering joining with Perry and Knott Counties as a regional partner in the Kentucky River Regional Jail located in Hazard.
Breathitt County Judge Executive Lewis Warrix said yesterday that his county cannot afford to join the jail as a partner at this moment, but if multi-county coal severance funds are made available through the governor's office for a new addition to the Hazard jail that could bring the bed count up to approximately 400, the possibility that his county would become a partner would be much better.
"We have discussed it and decided," Warrix said. "We don't have the money for bonding, but if we can get a grant we are interested."
Breathitt County's prisoners are currently dispersed in three different jails, with many of them being lodged at the Kentucky River Regional Jail in Hazard, along with the Three Forks Regional Jail in Beattyville and the Big Sandy Detention Center, Warrix noted, and if his county is able to join in the regional facility in Hazard, the transportation of prisoners would not be as far. "The benefit would be that we wouldn't have so far to transport a prisoner," he said. "We're looking for the cheapest way to keep our prisoners."
According to Perry County Judge Executive Denny Ray Noble, the regional jail in Hazard has already saved Perry County $1 million since its inception as a regional facility in July 2005. "Last year the budget was $2.1 million. This year the budget is $1.1 million. It saved us $1 million to go regional," Noble said.
Currently, Perry and Knott Counties are lodging prisoners at the Hazard jail, with Perry County paying 75 percent of the budget, while Knott County covers the rest of the bill. If Breathitt County opts to become a regional partner, Breathitt would be responsible for 25 percent of the operating expenses, reducing Perry's operational responsibility to half. Perry County pays more in operational expenses, Noble said, because the majority of the prisoners at the jail are Perry County inmates.
Noble commented that the possibility of coal severance funds are left up to Governor Ernie Fletcher's office, and that a feasibility study is currently being worked out and readying for presentation to the governor. "We're working on that now to get it in his hands."
Noble remarked that a study was recently completed stating that by 2015, Perry County could have up to 400 people lodged in its jail, underscoring the need for a new addition to the facility.
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