Page County asks to partner with regional jail
FRONT ROYAL — Page County is looking to buy into a regional jail to house prisoners and has approached the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority.
Page County Sheriff John Thomas and Supervisor Keith Guzy asked the authority at its meeting Thursday to consider a partnership.
Thomas said when jails were open in Shenandoah and Warren counties, Page County would trade female inmates for male inmates because the Page County jail is not certified to house female inmates. Over the last three years, Page County has been housing female inmates at Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton for $38 a day per inmate.
“We know the cost of keeping our population at Middle River on a contract basis without a buy-in is very substantial,” Thomas said. “What we are looking into is to buy into a facility, whether it would be here or at Middle River.”
A contract at Middle River will be signed for another six months, but Thomas said he hopes to have a buy-in secured by the end of the year.
Doug Stanley, jail authority chairman, said the board would have to look over the numbers and may be able to get back to Page County by July 1.
Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron asked if Page County would expect full voting rights on the jail authority. Thomas said nothing is final and the county is open to all options, whether it be a full buy-in, a partial buy-in or a contract to hold Page over until a deal is reached.
Stanley said another issue for the authority to look at is whether or not adding Page County inmates to the RSW Jail would force the jail to start construction on additions.
As of December 2014, the average population at the jail was 335 inmates. Thomas said the estimated inmate influx over 20 years at Middle River is 125.
RSW Jail Superintendent Bill Wilson estimated 530 inmates is the highest threshold before the jail would have to start building additions. Wilson added that at the state level, talks are under consideration to reduce the commonwealth’s regional jail contribution from 50 percent to 25 percent.
Stanley said adding the Page County inmate population is “doable” but “risky.”
“Our community corrections plan covers our 20 to 30 years of growth, but adding another jurisdiction could compound how fast we move to expand the jail,” Stanley said.
Guzy said a buy-in at Middle River would be an “influx of capital” for that facility, in addition to the monies the facility has already received through renting beds to Page.
“Right now, Middle River is as happy as they could be with the rent, but if we remove that rent, they might give us a good deal,” Guzy said. “Now you all (RSW) could sit down, crunch the numbers and say ‘wow, if we had the extra money, we could add onto the jail interest free.'”
Stanley said even if Page does provide an “influx of capital” for expansions, the counties in the jail authority would still have to pay 75 percent on the expansion, as opposed to 50 percent when the jail was originally constructed.
The authority will look at the proposal at its March 26 meeting. McEathron will sit on the finance and personnel committee to provide input on the proposal.
Other business and announcements at Thursday’s meeting included:
• There are 12 corrections officer vacancies, one lieutenant vacancy and one LPN vacancy. Nine positions, eight of which were corrections officers and one, the director of nursing, were recently filled. Two corrections officers resigned for positions out of state, one retired, and one left to work for the Front Royal Police Department. The chief financial officer will work part time until a full time replacement is found.
• Northwestern Community Service Board has discontinued its service for its 18 clients at the jail due to funding cutbacks. A counselor will visit clients at the jail, however the psychiatrists will treat patients via video link, similar to video arraignment. The Northwestern board has left a 90-day supply of medications for its clients at the facility, after that the jail will incur the cost of the medication.
• The authority voted to use existing funds for corrections officer positions to create two lieutenant positions. Wilson asked for the new positions due to a six-hour window per day when the corrections officers did not have a lieutenant on shift.
• More than a year into operation, the jail has used 42 percent of its funds.
Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org