Alcorn regional jail's red ink draws concern

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – For at least six months, costs of the Alcorn County regional jail have run tens of thousands of dollars over budget, and the county’s jail consultant met with supervisors to address their concerns.
Irb Benjamin of Jail Development, Management and Consultant of Jackson, who helped the previous board develop the jail’s administrative operations plan, will continue working with the current board through accreditation by the American Correctional Association.
Benjamin on Monday reviewed finances for September 2011-April 2012, which showed a net loss to date of $425,346.
Though the numbers have raised serious concerns among the three new board members who took office in January – Lowell Hinton of District 1, Dal Nelms of District 2 and Tim Mitchell of District 3 – Benjamin said he expects the facility to be operating in the black within about 18 months. District 4 Supervisor Gary Ross and District 5′s Jimmy Tate Waldon were on the board that planned the new jail.
Sheriff Charles Rinehart also pointed out unexpected expenses, but noted that several months of deficits was anticipated in the original plan.
In the early months, the facility had one-time, unexpected expenditures, Benjamin said. Among those was a radio tower and other costs of bringing full radio access for several emergency operations under one roof: the sheriff’s office, Corinth police department, the E-911 office and the emergency management/emergency operations center.
The sheriff’s office was delayed several months in moving into the new jail, continuing the expense of operating the old jail.
Several months of lost revenues resulted from:
* The first state inmates were brought to the jail June 1, 2011, rather than the original Feb. 1, 2011, date.
* The Corinth Police Department didn’t move into the facility until mid-November 2011, awaiting move of the National Crime Information Center computer.
Going forward Benjamin will work with the management team on controlling recurring expenses.
The county has a contract with the state that ensures payment for 240 inmates per month, no matter how few inmates may actually occupy the jail, Benjamin said, and for several months the jail’s daily census has been at or near the 300-inmate capacity.
The county also established a reserve fund of about $800,000 to support operations in a worst-case situation, and a fund for the building’s capital needs that will build over the years at a rate of about $4,800 per month.
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com