01/14/09 — Duplin Commission decides against cutting staff, services

View Archive

Duplin Commission decides against cutting staff, services

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 14, 2009 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Despite their earlier threats to the contrary, Duplin County commissioners decided Monday not to cut any positions or services to pay the bills being generated by their overcrowded jail.

Instead, the commissioners voted to leave it up to County Manager Mike Aldridge to find room in the budget to pay back the $72,000 they borrowed last week from the county's reserves to pay bills to Sampson and Pamlico counties for the housing of Duplin's overflow inmates.

The commission also authorized Aldridge to find room in the budget to pay a new $4,478 bill from the state Department of Corrections for a female prisoner -- a possible illegal alien -- who was housed in Raleigh for safekeeping and involuntary mental health services following a string of felonies.

The problem, explained Sheriff Blake Wallace, is that the jail can only hold 115 inmates legally, and that lately they've been forced to pay surrounding counties to house the overflow -- often 20 to 30 a month. It's a number he expects will remain consistent for the forseeable future.

Fortunately for now, though, Aldridge is confident that he can pay these initial bills without laying off county employees or cutting services.

"I think we can find the $77,000 from various sources without a problem," he said.

But, he cautioned, the issue is going to come back up.

Commissioner Reginald Wells said the $77,000 is just the beginning of it.

"The sheriff has told us it is going to take $240,000 to make it through June housing inmates out of the county," he said. "We need to think things through."

However, after much discussion -- but no decision -- about how to come up with the money to pay the jail housing bills, Commissioner Frances Parks moved to let Aldridge find a way to pay the $77, 000 out of what the county has in its coffers "without making any drastic changes."

Commissioner David Fussell gave the second. The vote was 4-1, with Wells dissenting.

"We need to have a long-term plan," he said. "We'll be right back in here, guys."