03/14/13 — Board eyes jail needs

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Board eyes jail needs

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 14, 2013 1:46 PM

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Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders' budget proposal for 2013-14 is expected to include a new jail and eight new deputies. Winders and his staff talked about the department, its needs and goals during their Wednesday presentation to Wayne County commissioners.

Wayne County's commissioners discussed ways to ease overcrowding at the county jail on Wednesday.

And the idea of a type of mobile home park that would serve to house some inmates came up as a possibility.

Sheriff Carey Winders appeared before commissioners during their series of departmental presentations and discussed his proposed budget requests. Some involved the jail.

The county is currently paying more than $2,000 per day to have inmates housed at facilities outside the county. More than 40 inmates are being kept at various facilities elsewhere. It costs $50 a day to house one inmate.

Commissioner Ray Mayo asked Winders if the law had any provision to allow him to hold inmates in temporary housing. He also asked Winders if he had looked at such housing.

"We are already overcrowded so there is no temporary place to do it," Winders said. "If you are talking about, and I hope you are not going to get into that tent city deal or jail."

"No, no," Mayo said as other commissioners laughed. Winders has repeatedly said it is not feasible to erect a "tent city" as a sheriff in Arizona has done.

"We don't have any temporary facilities at this time, but we are looking at one," Winders said. "You are on the Facilities Committee and we really need to look at that project we are doing. That would certainly help us out a great deal.

"It is not going to be an answer to a new facility, but it will certainly help us out down the road. If we don't we will continue on and on paying, and that is a big problem."

Consultants with the Brennan Group are working with the county on an option to building a $50 million or more new jail. Another short-term solution is to convert the former Senior Center into a 40-bed facility. It would cost about $3 million.

Mayo said that he didn't mean to keep beating a dead horse, but that the county has a lot of land.

"Would it possible to take some of that acreage we own, turn it into a mobile home detention center," Mayo said, sparking another round of laughter. "Is it feasible?"

County Manager Lee Smith said that some might laugh, but that the Brennan Group had presented a temporary jail solution that did include the use of a type of mobile unit. Smith said he would ask the consultants to bring the proposal to the Facilities Committee.

"These are not modular units, they are a little different," he said. "They are plug-and-play units they set up in a barracks formation that plug and play with air and water."

Winders added that he has proposed a bill to the state Sheriff's Association that would reduce the square footage required per inmate, which would allow more inmates to be housed inside the existing space.

However, doing so also changed the number of showers and toilets. Currently a toilet and shower is required for every eight inmates. Winder said he was trying to get them for every 16 inmates.

"If you want to compare oranges to apples, my daughter is in college and lives in a dorm," Winders said. "They don't have that many toilets."

Smith said he and his staff had met with Winders and that they think they have come up with a way to increase the number of beds at the old Senior Center building from 40 to 60.

The move would nearly pay for itself in savings, he said.

Mayo questioned the estimate mentioned for the ongoing jail renovations. The figures sound too high, he said.

Winders said the total included the jail's new roof and some other work as well.

"It is not that high," Smith said. "He (Winders) was just estimating through the end of the year, a kind of worse case. But it won't be that number. There were estimates in his original budget and in the facilities budget to do a number of things including other renovations.

"We had the rent there to send out inmates (while the work is being done) that we did not have before. We will give you an update."

The sheriff said he also would be requesting eight new deputies, an elder abuse investigator and one civilian computer forensics position in his budget proposal.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery asked Winders questioned whether the county could save money by doing maintenance work on its own patrol cars.

Smith said a study done a few years ago showed it would not be cost effective.

Wayne County would have to invest in a facility, equipment and mechanics, Winders said.

"We just couldn't make the numbers work. It just wasn't there," Smith said. "We used to work with the city and found that just with timing we just didn't get out. Right now using the private vendors the prices are marginal, but it was still all right so we still use private vendors in different parts of the county.

Other departmental presentations were made by the Day Reporting Center, the Animal Adoption and Education Center, Public Affairs and Marketing, the Public Library, the county Health Department, the Development Alliance, Human Resources and the Department of Social Services.