By Bob Weaver|
The word authority becomes meaningful to county governments when the
Regional Jail and
Correctional Facility Authority just voted three-to-one to raise its
daily rate from $39.50 to
$43.25. It may not sound like a lot of money to counties having a good
tax base, but several
of West Virginia's poorer counties are facing imminent crisis with
paying their jail bill.
Beth Taylor, President of the Harrison County Commission, says many of
the counties can
barely pay the current fee. Calhoun County continues to be in arrears
with the jail authority,
after making serious monthly efforts to pay on the bill.
Wirt County is facing financial collapse as they loose their local
jail which has generated
income, and must now pay a regional jail bill. Their Commission is
meeting with Gov. Bob
Wise to discuss the problem this month. Calhoun County has asked for a
grant to pay-off the bill, at least once.
The new rates will increase on July 1, according to Steve Canterbury,
Executive Director of
the authority. He said the raise is necessary to cover a 25% increase
in prisoners medical
costs, higher prices for gasoline and natural gas and higher workers
Canterbury acknowledged one of the biggest reasons for the rate
increase was to increase
pay for correctional officers to keep them from leaving. Officials
cannot keep the slots
filled. They have serious concerns over competitive wages with the new
U. S. prisons being
built in the state. He is asking for a two thousand dollar across the
board raise for officers.
Authority members did say the amount of the increase could be reduced
if the Legislature
provides special assistance.
Meanwhile, the Legislature agreed it needs a new authority "to oversee
and manage county
courthouses" in the states 55 counties. A new bill would establish the
West Virginia Court
Facilities Improvement Authority. This authority, according to the
bill, would help counties
keep their facilities operational because of mandated burdens placed
on them by state
The counties have been wired for two-way TV to help the magistrate
courts and local police
reduce their travel to the regional jail, the family law master
system has been placed in
county courthouses and pricey computer lines have been required for
Assessors and other
elected officials. Much of the financial burden of these mandates rest
with the counties.
The courthouse bill, modeled after the School Building Authority, is
expected to be
introduced during the Legislatures 60 day session.