Commissioners and the sheriff want to ensure that inmates aren't released.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners were expected to vote today on buying extra beds so the sheriff can begin double-bunking inmates at the county jail.
They'll buy the bunks from Andrews Metal Co. of Youngstown, at a cost not to exceed $50,000.
County Administrator Gary Kubic said commissioners did not bid the purchase, but Ohio law allows them to make such an expenditure without bidding if it's an emergency.
"We are in a work force reduction," Kubic said. "We consider the possible early release of inmates to be a real and present emergency."
Budget cuts forced Sheriff Randall Wellington to lay off 54 deputies last week, leaving him without enough to staff to fully man the entire jail on Fifth Avenue.
Serving their time
Rather than let inmates go, Wellington has proposed installing the extra bunks and keeping two inmates in each cell instead of just one. He's received special permission from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to deviate from state minimum jail standards.
Kubic said commissioners set aside $250,000 for the beds last year, when it became obvious that layoffs were unavoidable.
"We want to make sure that all inmates serve all their time," he said.
Kubic said the plan is not related to Wellington's proposal to generate more revenue for the jail by keeping more federal inmates there. That plan is being scrutinized by the county budget commission.
Auditor George Tablack, commission chairman, said he's completing an application asking the federal government to increase its daily rate of reimbursement to the county from $67 to $80 per inmate, per day.
He said it's uncertain whether the U.S. Marshal's office can increase the number of inmates kept in the county jail while they await sentencing or trial in federal court.
The county currently holds about 40 federal inmates in the jail.
Commissioners also were expected to reject three bids today that had been submitted late last year for possible office space for the 7th District Court of Appeals.
The court, currently located on the fourth floor of the courthouse, has long complained that it's out of space and badly in need of more. Commissioners sought bids, hoping it would be cost-effective to move the four-judge panel to a separate building.
But Kubic said the cost would be too high, considering that all eight of the counties included in the 7th District are having financial problems and could not afford the additional cost.
Commissioners will again try to find a way of keeping the court in the courthouse while still making room for other offices that also need more space, Kubic said.