Inmates and revenue: Does crime pay the county?
• Housing out-of-county inmates makes up for fewer federal inmates than originally expected
By Jessica Newberry
Housing prisoners costs money, but Jefferson County has learned that by housing other people’s offenders, they can make some of it back.
Approximately 18 months after the first inmates were admitted to the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Facility, revenue produced by the facility from June 2005 to May 2006 has exceeded budgeted amounts for the fiscal year.
“We’ve had a good year,” said Sheriff Gary Hutchins. “We’re hoping we’ll produce enough revenue to keep the burden of the facility off the taxpayers of Jefferson County.”
The center, built with proceeds from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), has 128 beds and six holding cells and admitted its first inmates in December 2004. As of last week it was housing 111 inmates including 16 women and, in May, averaged a daily count of 112.
County Administrator Paul Bryan said the jail is working towards establishing a stable population. Some vacancies must be kept available for in-county inmates, especially on weekends when the population frequently increases, he said.
Since opening, the jail has hired 17 additional employees and averages 21 full-time and two part-time employees.
Necessary operations include food preparation, which was initially done in the existing kitchen at the old facility. Food preparation has recently been moved to the kitchen in the new facility and is handled by a private institutional food provider that is contracted to provide meals at an approximate individual cost of $1.40.
“There is only a half-cent per meal difference in the cost of having it prepared at the jail versus at the correctional institute,” said Bryan. “It is very attractive to do it this way because the county doesn’t have to worry about food preparation, just overseeing it.”
In an effort to offset these costs, Sheriff Hutchins initiated conversations with representatives from the U.S. Marshal Service in hopes of housing federal inmates in the new facility.
According to the Sheriff, these inmates are usually serving time for drug-related charges, and the federal officials screen out those who may require additional security. The revenue produced from housing these inmates, $45 per day, was anticipated to completely offset, and possibly exceed, additional staffing costs.
While the county averaged $9,393 per month for housing these federal prisoners, this is significantly lower than the budgeted average of $29,218.
“Federal inmates were just not available at the time and we were overly optimistic,” Bryan said. "Things are looking better for the future."
Although the facility has housed an average of over 9 federal inmates per month, the daily average for May was almost 28.
Next year’s budget will allow for a daily average of 30 federal inmates, a number Bryan says federal marshals feel is reasonable.
Out-of-county inmates, Hutchins found, could be an unforeseen revenue source.
While they bring in $35 of revenue per day, Hutchins discovered there was a larger market for housing these inmates than he had expected.
The county averaged 53 out-of-county inmates a month for $58,267, and only budgeted to bring in $21,291. Through May, one month shy of a full fiscal year, revenue for these inmates has exceeded budgeted amounts by 105 percent.
“These out-of-county inmates have been a substantial part of making the amount of revenue we’ve made this year,” Hutchins said. “When we were in the old jail we didn’t house other inmates, so we got no revenue. Now we’re generating revenue from other inmates to offset costs.”
The majority of these inmates are currently coming from Bulloch County with occasional inmates being sent from Johnson and Burke counties. However, Bulloch County plans to break ground for a new detention facility on Jan. 1, 2007. Bryan said he expects approximately two years before the center will be operational. Next year’s budget will allow for an average of 30 out-of-county inmates.
“The distribution of inmates this year is different from what we estimated, but in our first year, we surpassed our budget which will assist in covering the cost of necessary operation,” said Bryan.
State inmates, also housed at the facility, are sentenced by Superior Court and are awaiting transportation to state correctional institutes. These inmates have also provided some cushioning for the lack of federal inmate revenue. With a monthly average of four state inmates bringing $1,962, the budgeted revenue of $583 has been exceeded by 152 percent. State inmates only provide $20 per day, approximately the same as in-county city inmates.
City inmates have also surpassed expectations with a daily average of over five, producing a monthly average revenue of $2,835. This is a 30-percent increase over the $1,629 budgeted.
The jail’s overall revenue has totaled $652,130, exceeding the annual budget of $632,675 by 3 percent. The overall cost of operating the jail-portion of county’s new Law Enforcement Center is $1,055,693.
“I think that’s pretty good,” Bryan said. “I’m sure most jails don’t get that much back.”
GCCS faces class size dilemma
• School board considers options possibly forced by new state bill currently being drafted in legislature
By Faye Ellison
Legislators are working to decrease class size again. With the decreases that are projected to take effect, it leaves an area school looking at other options to meet the new class size maximum rule.
Truth in class size is a new bill that was presented to legislators through Governor Sonny Perdue.
“When someone calls, a social worker will talk to them about their needs and how we might be able to help,” Patton said. “Maybe they are looking for help with custody or we can find someone to give them some legal advice or assistance. We have developed a resource guide and we send it to agencies in each county as well as the families that make contact with us.”
A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Education said that the new bill has not been finalized yet, but will be forthcoming.
With the new bill, kindergarten classes will be held to 20 students per class with a paraprofessional or 18 students without a parapro. The classroom size before was 21 students.
In grades one through three, there should be only 21 students per class, where in the past the classroom size could max out at 23 students.
Twenty-eight is the new student maximum for grades four through eight. The previous maximum classroom size was 30.
When the new bill goes into affect, Glascock County Consolidated School will have to add additional classes for third and seventh grades. This means they will have to find two more classrooms to house the students and hire two more teachers to educate the students.
Currently the Glascock County Board of Education is looking into the possibility of moving the two Pre-K classes to the old school on Railroad Avenue from GCCS.
“We’ve had Pre-K for nine years,” Glascock County Superintendent Jim Holton said. “For five years we housed them at the Board of Education building and for four years we have housed them at the consolidated facility.”
Holton went on to say that the board will consider all options that are available to them, which includes busing the children to the Board of Education facilities or perhaps purchasing a portable classroom to place beside the consolidated school.
“Of course we want to provide the best environment in which our four-year-old pre-K students can learn,” Holton said.
Georgia’s Pre-K program began in 1993 to give four-year-olds “high-quality” preschool experiences. Pre-K is funded by the Georgia Lottery for Education. It served around 70,000 children in the 2004-2005 school year.
The school system is looking at possibly having to spend some money from its general fund, which will be a combination of local and state funds, if they decide to buy a portable classroom. Without the classroom, students will have to be bused to the school for breakfast and lunch.
Before considering moving the Pre-K, board members looked at the number of out-of-county students in third and seventh grades. Holton said the school system has a rule in place concerning out-of-county students. If the school has to add extra classes, these students may be forced to withdraw if the system can keep the same amount of classes without those students.
“In any grade level that requires an additional teacher, all out-of-county students will be withdrawn,” he said. “But we looked at those numbers and that is not the case this time.”
Holton said board members will discuss the new class size dilemma at the June 15 board meeting.
Final plan for transmission lines still being discussed
• Company says there is a pocket in Glascock where they are attempting to find a "win-win"
By Faye Ellison
Many Glascock County citizens were informed in September 2005 of a new high voltage power line that is scheduled to pass through the length of the county, but are wondering where the project stands.
Now Georgia Transmissions, which will run the line across the county, has come closer to showing citizens where the centerline for the high voltage power line will be located. Georgia Transmission is owned and operated by the Electric Membership Corporations’ of Georgia.
With the help of Georgia Transmission, the EMCs will put a 500-kilovolt line through parts of Glascock County. The line will begin at the Warthen Substation and run across the county, slightly north of Mitchell and Gibson, ending at the Thomson Primary Substation. The project is slated to be finished by 2010.
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Senior Public Relations Representative Jeannine Rispin recently said that Georgia Transmission is still working with some of the property owners in Glascock County to come to an agreement, but have finished with owners in Washington, Warren and McDuffie, the other three counties through which the line will run.
“For the most part we have found a workable centerline in Washington, Warren and McDuffie counties,” Rispin said. “There is a pocket there in Glascock County where we are trying to work with folks to find a win/win situation.”
Taking this amount of time is not unusual, she said.
“People want some input in where the line will be located,” Rispin added. “And we want to work with property owners and find a location that is acceptable on their property. It is all a part of our process.”
In July, Georgia Transmission plans to hold public meetings in Warren and Washington counties.
“Overall for a project of this size, it has gone very well,” she said. “We just want to know the centerline is in the best place and the people affected are fairly compensated.”
Rispin said the map of the centerline that will be available at the future meetings is very detailed and is based on aerial photography.
“We hope people will come to get information about the line,” she said. “We don’t have a schedule for the Glascock or McDuffie County yet, but when the meeting is scheduled property owners and those directly affected or subjected to the line will receive a certified letter and a notice will run in the paper.”
County Commissioners will also be informed of the meetings and status of the project. Rispin said, Georgia Transmissions wants the publics input through the meetings.
Last year, Rispin explained the reasoning for the new line across the four-county area.
“Our job is to build the high power lines that bring the power to all of the EMCs across the state,” she said. “The Georgia electric grid is supported by a network of major high voltage transmission lines. These lines form the backbones of the system that serve both the EMCs and Georgia Power.”
According to Rispin, the project was released to Georgia Transmission in December 2004 to begin looking at a study area.
“Most of this transmission system was built before 1980,” Rispin said. “Georgia has experienced a lot of growth and that has placed an enormous strain on the current lines. It is time to build new lines to ensure the bulk remains stable.
“This is a project that is a part of a statewide effort to bolster the transmission grid in Georgia. There are quite a few large lines like this that will be built all over the state.”
Rispin said that the line will supply power to much of east central Georgia. She did say that the company would rely on community input when factoring exactly where the line would go.
“We look at a lot of different factors, community input, existing and proposed land uses, environmental regulations, historic structures, rivers, streams and Indian settlements,” Rispin explained last September. “We do an analysis of the entire study area to try to find a route with minimum impact to the people and the environment.
“We are certainly available to talk to anybody or anyone that has questions.”
The 500-kilovolt line that will run through Glascock County will look similar to a line in Warthen, but narrower. Currently Georgia Transmission is still in the process of designing the structure.
There will be easements of 150 total feet that will go 75 feet on either side of the line.
“There are easements,” Rispin explained. “We will pay fair market value for the easements. We have state certified appraisers to work with property owners to reach an agreement on value.”
Nines times out of 10, Rispin said an agreement can be made on property value. If not, eminent domain will come into play.
“We only use eminent domain as a last resort after every avenue has been exhausted,” she said. “We cannot deny reliable electricity to a whole community. We will go to court and file condemnation on that owner. The only reason the law gives us the right to do that is that lives and livelihoods depend on power.”
Rispin stated that the condemnation rate is very low.
“We have built hundreds of miles each year and we end up condemning less than 5 percent that we work with,” she said.
Rispin explained that farming and other uses can take place on the easements, but not planting timber. Houses or other structures can be placed next to the easement, but not on them.
Georgia Transmission encourages anyone with questions to call Rispin at 1-800-241-5374 ext. 7741.