Somerset County commissioners hope to use $540,000 jail surplus

Posted July 23, 2009, at 9:52 p.m.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Somerset County commissioners will meet Monday to decide what to do with an estimated $540,000 surplus in the county jail budget.

County Commissioner Lynda Quinn wants to use the money to restore positions the county commissioners recently decided not to fill in county government. The treasurer’s office and a position in the District Attorney’s Office both were changed from full-time to part-time. Commissioners also were considering not filling positions in the registry of deeds and registry of probate, before the surplus became available.

“From my perspective, this money is jail surplus that we can use to offset some of the money at the county level,” she said.

Commissioner Bob Dunphy agreed.

“Absolutely,” he said of using the surplus for county needs, “if we need it. Whatever we need to run the county efficiently and with the number of people that we need.”

The jail initially had expected to hire corrections officers to open up the second pod of the county jail to take in state inmates and inmates from other counties now operating without jails, he said.

“We are looking very deeply into this, because the state has anticipated no money next year for running jails,” he said.

If the state can’t afford to pay the $20.53 per inmate per day, Dunphy said, Somerset County won’t pick up the slack.

“[We won’t] use Somerset County money to board state prisoners. If there would be some [monetary] relief for the jail, we’re willing to work with them,” he said.

“Show me the money,” he added, speaking about taking in state inmates.

Commissioners plan to decide what to do with the surplus at an open meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the county office at 41 Court St.

Dunphy and Quinn said they want to use the county jail surplus money quickly, before a state law takes effect Sept. 1 that would bar using jail surpluses for the county’s general budget.

According to Dunphy, “a lot of discussion” is needed before the county decides what to do with the money.

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