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Bartlett wants to house federal inmates

By Sheryl Marsh 340-2437

The Morgan County Commission will get help paying for the $23 million jail that opened last year. And Sheriff Greg Bartlett will get more money if he starts housing federal inmates.

During his budget hearing Wednesday, the sheriff told the commission that the federal government has approved the new jail for housing inmates. He said he has negotiated with federal authorities to receive $40 per inmate each day.

In addition, the federal government would pay the county for transporting its inmates at a rate of $15 per hour. The $40 fee would include $3 per day per inmate for food.

Bartlett said he plans to begin with 20 prisoners, which would yield more than $500,000 per year.

He offered a 50/50 split of the money between his office and the County Commission.

Bartlett said he would use half of his share to pay for equipment and education and training for his staff and he would use the other half toward pay raises.

State law allows sheriffs to keep any money they have left from feeding inmates. The state pays $1.75 per inmate each day.

"I'm going to abide by the state law as it applies to feeding inmates," said Bartlett.

During a 24-month period a past audit shows Bartlett made $104,000 from the state food money.

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark suggested that the money be put in a fund for capital projects, such as building a garage for the Sheriff's Department mechanic. Bartlett was not against that idea, but said he wasn't for "putting all the money in one pot."

"It would be a win-win situation," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said he is not entering a contract with the federal government, but he would sign a three-year service agreement. Glasscock said the county's attorney, Bill Shinn, told him that he was the only person who could sign a contractual agreement. Bartlett said it is not a contract, and he can lawfully sign the service agreement.

The commission would have voted on the matter, but Glasscock said he would like for Shinn to review the agreement first.

Bartlett took the document to Shinn and the commission may vote on it Tuesday.

The commissioners agreed that their portion of the money would make bond payments on the jail.

Before discussing housing federal inmates, the sheriff presented budgets for his office and the jail, which amounted to $8.6 million.

His total requests for both operations total $363,532.

Bartlett wants to add three road deputies, a sex crime investigator and a narcotics investigator.

District 4 Commissioner Stacy George said he is for adding the employees because his end of the county needs more patrols. George said he fully supports the sheriff's budgets.

Glasscock had Deputy Administrator Carol Long to review the status of the overall budget, which included Bartlett's budgets, and she said the county would not have to use money from the Road and Bridge fund.

After the sheriff left, commissioners, except for George, wavered on adding the employees, but ultimately agreed to leave them in the sheriff's budget and make a decision next week.

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