In addition to a $15,000 request for a part-time jailer/work crew supervisor, Sheriff Rob Carter requested $40,000 for inmates medical expenses from Clay County Council at its regular meeting Tuesday night.
"Since we've been under a microscope (due to a federal court order to improve jail conditions), I've had to increase evening-time hours and some of that money will also go to supervise inmates out on community work crews," Carter said.
He said his staff can't prepare for medical costs and has tried everything he can to contain the increasing expense. After approaching the local hospital to see about a price break, he found that because there are so many different entities within the facility, the deal was not strictly up to hospital administration alone and it failed.
"Prescriptions took three-fourths of our budget last year and emergency room visits are killing us this year. We're not getting the typical inmate anymore. A lot of them need to be hospitalized right away (referring especially to the many methamphetamine addicts). They have respiratory problems and chest pains, communicable diseases such as HIV (AIDS) and tuberculosis," Carter said.
He said fights often erupt between inmates, resulting in stiches being needed. Even though inmates are required to pay a co-pay to see the doctor, many are indigent and the county ends up with that expense. The county only collects an average of $300 per month on co-pays.
Adding the local doctor administering care at the jail is a bargain compared to doctor costs at other county jails, Carter said a nurse should be dispensing prescriptions, but jailers do it since there is not yet a nurse employed. He also said dental visits are limited to extractions only.
Council President Les Harding said $50,000 had been appropriated for the year along with another $12,000 previously appropriated.
Councilman Larry Moss reminded council members that $20,000 of that went to a prescription bill owed from last year, so after putting that into perspective, the request wasn't quite as bad as it seemed.
Carter said he hated to ask the council for additional money, especially at a time when property tax reassessment funds are not available, but that he had no alternative since the jail is required to provide medical service to inmates.
The council voted unanimously to allow the appropriation. In addition to that, the council re-appropriated $34,500 from last year's budget to the sheriff's pension fund.
It also re-appropriated $300,000 to the county highway, which had already been approved in the budget to purchase new equipment, but because of typographical error made by the state, it had been omitted. There are no outstanding claims to be paid and the new equipment can't be purchased until the county receives the funds from the state.
Clay County Council unanimously disallowed the additional appropriation of over $10,500 for computer system technology at the court house with the explanation that as of Sept. 1, the county would be in the red by $42,000 and jump to $374,000 by Oct. 1 if the spring property tax installment isn't received.