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Regional jail board approves budget

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- The regional jail in Warren County has a budget for next year.

The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority Board approved its spending plan for fiscal 2015 on Thursday. The board did so only after members pored through the list of expenses, some of which prompted questions or concerns raised by members, for about an hour.

The board adopted the jail's fiscal 2015 budget that calls for spending $11.14 millio, but the motion to approve the plan also included changes as requested by members that cuts approximately $200,000.

Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron questioned the need for the budget to include money for 25 cell phones. Other members agreed that the jail would need 20 phones at least for now. Other questions arose about the cost of supplies and vehicles for the facility and employees. Superintendent Robert Mulligan responded to questions about the budget and explained the need for the dollar amounts.

The board also approved a contract with Mediko PC to provide medical services by a physician, and mental health services by a psychiatrist, to inmates. The authority's attorney, Brendan Hefty, explained that the three-year contract does allow for the board to withdraw after a year should other options arise. The budget includes $273,838 in the first year. Hefty said the contractor will maintain the same cost for contract's second year.

Board Chairman Douglas Stanley, county administrator for Warren County, explained that the authority had tried to contract out its inmate health needs but companies that responded to its requests wanted more than the jail had in its budget. The lowest proposal came in at about $1.5 million, well above the $750,000 in the budget. The board opted to go with a hybrid approach.

"Financially ... I think this is the way we have to go," Stanley said. "We don't have the luxury of going with a full contract."

Stanley noted that this approach may mean more work for the jail staff.

"Under the circumstances I think this is the best we can put together in the time frame we had," Stanley said.

John McCarthy, county administrator for Rappahannock County, said the board looked for interest among local providers to no avail. He noted that the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center near Winchester uses the same hybrid system.

"We did all we could to try to incentivize the hospital system to try to get involved in this," McCarthy said. "For a variety of reasons, they just elected not to do so."

"I'm not saying this is the best way to proceed but it's the most economical way we think we can proceed," McCarthy added.

The budget assumes the jail can expect to receive approximately $5.6 million in aid from the Virginia Compensation Board that includes what the state gives to cover per diem costs to house inmates. Of the $11.14 million, the jail plans to spend $8.12 million on staff salaries and benefits.

The budget accounts for the local shares of the cost to run the jail per a formula based on number of inmates provided by each county. Local contributions are as follows: $371,062 from Rappahannock County, $1.82 million from Shenandoah County and $2.88 million from Warren County.

The jail begins operations as a corrections facility on Tuesday. Jail officials estimated at least 2,000 people toured the facility during a public open house last week, far exceeding anyone's expectations. This week the jail began taking inmates from the local lock-ups in the three counties. The regional jail currently has approximately 340 inmates. The facility is designed to house 375 if only single-bunked.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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