By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have reduced supplemental appropriations requests for the Corrections Department and Sheriff's Department by over $100,000.
They will be asking for $95,605 for the Corrections Department and $26,000 for the Sheriff's Department when they meet with the Belknap County Delegation on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m, at the Belknap County complex.
The previous requests for $136,500 for to Corrections Department and $93,000 for the Sheriff's Department were denied by the delegation's tie vote on May 22 when they were lumped together in a single request for $229,500.
The new total is for $121,000 and there will be separate votes on each request by the delegation.
Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray provided commissioners with information on the newly revised total when they met Thursday afternoon. He said that plans originally called for hiring four new corrections officers by June 1 ,with an eye on opening the new 18,1000-square-foot, 72-bed facility in September. Opening is now scheduled for late October.
He said three officers have been hired, two of whom will start work on Aug. 13 and one who will start on Aug. 20. The fourth will hired in September.
Gray has held talks with other corrections departments in the state for the temporary transfer of prisoners, which will enable work on the current jail in the second and final phase of the $8 million Belknap County Corrections Center project to start this week.
Carroll County has agreed to take up to 20 prisoners at a cost of $10 per day for up to 26 days according to Gray, who said transfers will start place next Thursday and will likely involve about 16 prisoners, including a small number of women being held prior to trial.
Total costs would be $5,200 but Gray said he hopes to have all of the prisoners back just after Labor Day weekend, when staff training is completed and the new corrections center will be able to house prisoners.
Commissioners also approved holding a grand opening ceremony for the Community Corrections Center for 2 p.m. on Aug. 17.
The delegation will also be considering for the first time Tuesday night a request for a $135,000 supplemental appropriation to make up for an increase in the $6.2 million health and human services budget line that pays for private nursing home care for county residents.
Belknap County Commissioners voted unanimously two weeks ago to allow Corrections Superintendent Gray to hire four new officers, even though the delegation has yet to approve a supplemental appropriation. Gray has maintained that the new officers are needed in order to open the new Community Corrections Center.
Commissioners have maintained that the budget approved by the delegation lacked sufficient funds to hire the new officers and asked the delegation to approve a $136,500 supplemental appropriation for the new officers.
The delegation considered the request at its May 22 meeting and it failed on a 7-7 tie vote after Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) ruled that Delegation Vice Chairman Ray Howard (R-Alton) could not abstain on the vote. Howard then voted against the appropriation, creating the tie vote.
In support of their decision to authorize the hiring of the four officers, the commissioners released a letter from Concord Attorney Bruce Marshall, which maintains that the delegation acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner" in cutting the Corrections Department's budget and then in denying the supplemental appropriation request.
The commissioners hired Marshall after meeting with him in a closed-door session on June 27.
The letter further says that since the Department of Corrections superintendent has made a determination that the corrections facility cannot be opened without the new officers, who are deemed necessary for the operation of the facility, the law requires that delegation appropriate funding for those officers in the long term.
Members of the delegation who voted against the request maintain that the $27.447 million budget approved by the delegation is up substantially over what it was in recent years and maintain that there were sufficient funds in the budget to hire the new officers.
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