The money generated could avert the layoff of deputies.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Sheriff Randall Wellington thinks he might have found a way to avoid having to lay off deputies, but he must persuade Mahoning County commissioners to go along with it.
Because of budget cuts imposed by commissioners, Wellington will furlough 54 deputies March 4.
But the sheriff said he's come up with some changes that should help him better manage inmates in the jail and bring in extra money that could be used to help fund his department.
The first step is to have more bunks installed in the jail cells so inmates can be double-bunked. Commissioners have already set aside $200,000 to buy and install additional bunks.
Wellington said the double-bunking option has been approved by a state jail inspector. He said the county is being allowed to deviate from minimum jail standards because of the dire financial circumstances.
By double-bunking inmates who are either serving court-imposed sentences or awaiting court appearances, space is freed in other areas of the jail for housing federal inmates, the sheriff said.
The county often holds inmates who are awaiting appearance in federal court and bills the federal government $67 a day for keeping them. Wellington said there are about 30 federal inmates in the jail now.
He said the federal reimbursement contracts returned an average of $57,000 a month, which has historically been put into the county general fund.
He's asking commissioners to begin earmarking that money for return to the sheriff's department because that's the department that generates it. If they'll do that, he could rescind the layoff notices.
Elizabeth Sublette, budget director, said revenue from all general fund offices is put into a pool and used to fund all the offices. Most offices, like the sheriff's, generate considerably less money than it takes to fund them, Sublette said.
Wellington said once commissioners put the money into the general fund, they can take it back out and give it to him.
Commissioner Ed Reese, who received Wellington's letter this week, said he would be willing to give the federal inmate-reimbursement money to the sheriff as it's collected, but he has not yet discussed it with his colleagues, David Ludt and Vicki Allen Sherlock. He said they'll probably talk about it during a staff meeting next week.
County Administrator Gary Kubic said if more money ends up coming into the general fund than commissioners have appropriated, commissioners could opt to give part of that to the sheriff.
But Kubic and Reese said the outcome of a lawsuit pending against commissioners in the Ohio Supreme Court could make it a moot point.
Judges Theresa Dellick of juvenile court and Timothy P. Maloney of probate court have sued commissioners for more funding. If they win, commissioners have said most of the extra money will probably be taken from the sheriff's budget.