BOWLING GREEN - A concern about continued overcrowding at the Wood County jail prompted Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn to approach county commissioners yesterday with an early warning: His budget will come up short this year.
"This month we've had several days with 34 prisoners [at out-of-county jails]. In December, we thought 20 was a high number," the sheriff said.
The sheriff's 2005 budget includes $150,000 for prisoner care in out-of-county jails, but last year the county spent $272,580 to house prisoners at jails in Putnam, Van Wert, and Crawford counties. That figure represents the cost of renting beds at the jails, but does not include the cost of gasoline and deputies' time to transport the prisoners to and from the lock-ups, he said.
Sheriff Wasylyshyn, who took office Jan. 3, said the cost of prisoner care could grow to $350,000 this year, although he is exploring ways to reduce the number of inmates at the county jail.
He told commissioners he plans to meet with county judges next week to talk about ways to reduce the amount of time between a prisoner's conviction and sentencing as well as alternatives to jail, such as electronic monitoring.
"I'm going to look outside the box," he said. "I'm open to any ideas the judges may have."
Asked about the possibilities, Common Pleas Judge Robert Pollex said he was open to discussing the issue with the new sheriff.
"We do have some other options we can try to work with on the short term," Judge Pollex said. "Whether on the long term those solutions work would be harder to predict."
Commissioners seemed reluctant to begin any discussion of adding on to the current jail, which was built in 1989 for 145 inmates.
Commissioner Jim Carter said the board knows $150,000 won't cover the cost of housing prisoners out of town, but it will give the sheriff time to work on ways to reduce the county's growing dependence on out-of-county jail beds.
"After the first six months or so, we'll see where that budget is going to be, and we'll start addressing it," he said.
The sheriff also told commissioners he was a big believer in training and was concerned about the small amount - $5,000 - set aside for training staff in 2005. Buying the ammunition to qualify deputies on their firearms costs $4,000, and he would like to have officers qualified at least twice a year.
In addition, Sheriff Wasylyshyn pointed out that money was budgeted this year to purchase software that will instruct 911 operators on what questions to ask a caller with a medical emergency while emergency responders are on the way. The $10,700 requested to train the department's 14 dispatchers on the new software, though, was cut from the 2005 budget, the sheriff said.
In approving temporary appropriations for 2005 earlier this month, commissioners said they were forced to reduce the budget requests for every county department.
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