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Washington Council Grapples With Unknown Cost Of Jail

Last updated on Saturday, August 17, 2013

(SALEM) - The biggest problem with reviewing the Washington County 2014 budget for council members is the unknown cost of operating the new jail.

The Leader Democrat reports that the big question is how much money to budget for operating the new jail which will be opened in the fall of 2014.

Sheriff Claude Combs told the council he had not received any estimates on operating costs from the architect.

Council President David Hoar was given estimates for annual operating costs of $401,798 at the high end with $249,814 at the low end.

Hoar says council members will use those figures when estimating the budget.

Councilman Ben Bowling estimated the monthly cost at $33,000 on the high side and $20,000 on the low side because the facility will not be operational till the fall.

In addition to costs related to the building, the council anticipates increases in the cost of food and medical care.

Combs told the council the department will have to hire at least one, more likely two, jailers to meet a state requirement of having two jailers on duty at all times. He will also have to fill a full-time position that is now currently being filled by part-time officers.

Council members told Combs the county s under a hiring freeze, which requires department heads to notify the council and commissioners before replacing any personnel. The freeze was initiated because the county is in a "tight" financial situation.

The council asked Combs to submit a letter informing them of the intent to fill the positions.

And cost of heating and cooling the facility will increase, but the cost of water should remain about the same.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. The council wil then give final approval during their meeting on Tuesday, September 3 and then the budget will have to be approved by the state.

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