KEYSER - After being behind in paying the county's regional jail bills for over two years, the Mineral County Commissioners voted Tuesday morning to make two payments which will finally bring them up to date.
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - After being behind in paying the county’s regional jail bills for over two years, the Mineral County Commissioners voted Tuesday morning to make two payments which will finally bring them up to date.
Each of West Virginia’s 55 counties are billed $48.25 per day for each inmate the county is responsible for. Some of the inmates are awaiting trial dates and are therefore incarcerated for quite some time, while others are serving a sentence for their convictions.
Many of the counties, Mineral included, have been having difficulties keeping up with the rapidly mounting bills. Mineral fell behind in their payments over two years ago.
At one point, Mineral County’s debt to the West Virginia Regional Jail System approached $1 million.
On several different occasions over the past few years, the commissioners have met with county judges and magistrates, local attorneys, and area law enforcement to discuss possible alternative sentencing as a means of lowering the budget-busting bills.
The Mineral County Day Report Center, which provides alternate sentencing programs for non-violent offenders, has helped to reduce the bills somewhat, but the cost of housing inmates in the jail system has continued to eat away at the county’s finances at the rate of $50,000-$70,000 each month.
Then, as the county’s finances began to improve somewhat, Mineral County was able to begin making payments in late 2014. At that time, they were over $900,000 in debt.
Throughout 2015 and into 2016, the county continued to pay on the bill whenever it could - always keeping the amount below that dreaded $1 million mark.
Tuesday, commissioner Roger Leatherman made the motion and Jerry Whisner seconded it to pay the February and March 2016 bills, which totaled over $98,000.
That leaves only the April bill to be paid, at $50,083.50, to bring the county up to date.
“That’s great news,” Whisner said as the motion passed.
The county’s elected officials are not giving up on their quest to utilize more alternative sentencing, however, especially since a new Circuit Court judge and new magistrate were elected last week and will be taking office in January.