Prison bd. grapples with non-county costs

Members of the Warren County Prison Board wrestled Tuesday with the issue of the costs of non-county inmates at the county jail.

Specifically, there are currently 18 Forest County residents housed at the prison, and Warren County is reimbursed at the rate of $40 a day when the actual costs are closer to $70, according to Warren County Commissioner John Bortz.

Commissioner Stephen Vanco said, “We can’t subsidize another county.”

Bortz noted that although there would be small savings in items like food if the Forest County inmates weren’t there, “the cost to maintain the capacity is not going to change.” He said that Forest prisoners are “basically taking up the surplus capacity” at the jail.

Commissioner John Eggleston said, “I don’t have a problem with discounting (Forest County’s rate) say, five bucks, but not at the expense of Warren County taxpayers.”

There are currently 121 inmates in the jail, although the number varies, and the capacity is 140, according to Sheriff / Warden Ken Klakamp.

Klakamp projected the income from Forest County through the end of the year to be around $189,000, and noted that Forest pays for its inmates’ medical care separately.

He said he would like to speak to the Forest County sheriff, and Eggleston agreed, saying, “I suggest that we have a meeting with the sheriffs and (Forest County) commissioners.”

Bortz said any change in costs to Forest County before the end of the year would cause them problems, as funds have not been budgeted.

He added, “We need to have an open dialogue. If we lose the Forest County inmates, next year will be a challenge for us. I really don’t want to lose them.”

Eggleston then asked Chief Clerk Pam Matve to schedule a meeting with the board and Forest Count representatives.

Warren county Fiscal Director Toby Rohlin presented bills totaling $55,436, and the board approved payment.

In new business, Eggleston suggested that a meeting should be set up with Seneca Medical Services as it has been a year or more since their last meeting.

Bortz explained that Seneca has what amounts to an in-house clinic to oversee medical care for the inmates, lowering costs to the county.

He also said that the county shifted jail prescription purchases two years ago from Diamond Pharmaceutical, a statewide company providing services to institutions, to Crone’s Drug Store. That resulted in lower costs, better service and a local impact on the economy.