Saturday, May 15th, 2010
By Shelley Grieshop
Visiting inmates will pay
Funds from out-of county inmates to be split between county, sheriff's department
  Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey and county commissioners have come up with an agreement to allow out-of-county inmates to stay at the new jail with rental fees divided between the parties.
On Thursday, commissioners unanimously approved the memorandum of understanding with Grey. The new adult detention facility along state Route 29 in Celina has 110 beds and averages approximately 30 local inmates daily.
The proposed rental rate is $45 per day, per inmate, to cover a variety of expenses incurred by the sheriff and the county. The fee may be reduced for county's seeking to house a large number of prisoners, commissioner Jerry Laffin said. The number of prisoners accepted will depend on the census count each day, he added.
According to the agreement, 30 percent of the rental revenue will be deposited into the county's general fund and 40 percent will go into the sheriff's operations and maintenance fund.
The remaining 30 percent will be steered into a newly-created fund titled "Sheriff Law Enforcement Fund," to be used at the discretion of the sheriff. Purchases made with those funds must still adhere to the county's policies and those of the Ohio Revised Code and state auditor, the agreement states.
The contract terms can be amended annually or terminated if both parties agree.
Dividing the revenue evenly was initially a complicated issue because some of the jail's expenses are paid from Grey's budget; others, such as utilities, are paid by the county. Both parties wanted to insure they'd be adequately reimbursed, they said at a meeting in March. Both sides opted to look deeper into their finances before agreeing on the final split.
Grey formally approached the commissioners with the idea of accepting out-of-county inmates at the March meeting. However, the idea was discussed previously and commissioners showed interest early on in pursuing the venture, Laffin confirmed.
"Instead of worrying where to send our prisoners, we'll finally be able to utilize the space we have and add to our general fund," he said.
The new arrangement is a major turnaround for the sheriff and the county. Taxpayers previously paid between $5,000 to $12,000 per month to house Mercer County inmates at jails in other counties when the local facility was full.
The former jail, across from the courthouse in Celina, was built in 1939 to hold just 15 prisoners. It routinely had overcrowding issues. The new facility was completed late last fall and inmates were transported there from the old jail in February.
Grey said it feels good to remove the pressure of where to house his own "bad guys."
"If we can help other counties who've helped us through the years, it's a good thing," he said. "And in these economic times, we can help ourselves financially."
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