Cumberland Times-News

Local News

December 3, 2013

Mineral officials looking for ways to lower jail bill

County paying about $65,000 per month

KEYSER, W.Va. — The Mineral County commissioners agreed to follow the recommendation of attorney David Webb, who served as an interim assistant prosecuting attorney, to hold a meeting with key players in the judicial system to address ways to lower the county’s jail bill.

Webb provided the commissioners with a six-page report suggesting that home confinement and community corrections be used more often to decrease the bill.

“We have these things available and I think we need to use them more,” said Webb during the commission meeting Tuesday.

The county budgeted $800,000 for this fiscal year for the jail bill, which works out to about $65,000 per month, according to Webb.

“About 60 percent or more of the jail bill is for felonies,” said Webb. “No one in this room is soft on crime. We are always looking at ways for the wise allocation and management of our money.”

 Tara Hockaday, director of the county correction program, stressed the importance of working together to help lower the jail bill.

“It’s not going to work if we are not all on the same page,” said Hockaday. “Our statistics are rising.”

Webb also suggested hiring a paralegal to assist the prosecuting attorney’s office in tracking people in jail and looking into ways to move nonviolent offenders out of jail.

“A paralegal in the prosecutor’s office would be able to save money enough to pay their wages and benefits,” said Webb.

The paralegal could also help lighten the prosecutor’s workload. Jay Courrier, prosecuting attorney, said that if a new hire is also a victim coordinator that state grants would be available to help alleviate hiring costs.

The county commission association has tried to push legislation through that would require a city to pay the jail cost for the first night if the person is arrested in the city, according to Janice LaRue, county commission president.

“We can’t get the legislation through because nobody wants to take that responsibility of the city paying,” said LaRue. “Some cities couldn’t pay.”

In other news, the commission received one letter of interest for the development authority and four for the board of health. There are three positions on the development authority, two which will expire in 2016 and one in the summer of 2014, according to Commissioner Dr. Richard Lechliter.

State code mandates that each of the three districts be represented on the board of health and requires the person serving to be a registered voter and to claim a party. The available position is for district one.

The commission will accept letters of interest for the positions until Friday and the decisions will be announced during the Dec. 17 commission meeting.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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