LACONIA — Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward last week provided a classic example of how unanticipated events can drive up spending at the county jail.
While explaining details of his budget to the Belknap County Convention's Public Safety Subcommittee, Ward pointed out how the inability of one person being held at jail to post $100 bail resulted in a $5,000 hospital bill for the county.
'She was being held in protective custody on $100 bail,and couldn't be released because she was intoxicated. She then thought she was having a heart attack and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was taken to the emergency room. It wasn't a heart attack but the bill was for $13,000, which the hospital discounted to $ 5,000.'' said Ward.
Ward said that mental health spending for inmates needing those services accounts for around $45,000 a year while medications which are supplied by the county for those in custody requires about $4,000 a month — but those numbers are unknowable at the start of the budget year and can only be estimated at that time based on past experience.
Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin said that he has the same kind of expenses facing his department with involuntary admissions to the State (mental) Hospital, which he said require his department to take as many as 300 people there a year, many in the middle of the night, which can require off duty officers to be called in.
Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) advised both department heads that they might want to look at their budget estimates closely as he is calling for the elimination of a $100,000 contingency line in the county budget ''which the county commissioners can do what they want with'' and creation of a contingency fund which the county convention would have more control over.