MeredithMay2017

Crucial vote coming on jail funding

LACONIA — The Belknap County Delegation will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 22 to take up a request for a a $229,500 supplemental appropriation from the Belknap County commissioners. They will hold a public hearing on the request and are expected to vote on it following the hearing.
The request includes $136,500 for the Corrections Department and $93,000 for the Sheriff's Department.
Commissioners maintain that the funds are needed in order to allow the new $8 million, 18,000-square-foot, 72-bed Community Corrections Center to open as planned this fall and for the Sheriff's Department to be able to meet its statutory obligations.
Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray has said that without the four additional corrections officers cut from his budget by the delegation, he will not be able open the corrections center and operate it safely.
The supplemental appropriation proposal calls for hiring three corrections officers on July 1 and another on Sept. 1.
In a letter to the editor published in Thursday's Laconia Daily Sun, Gray reiterated his position that he could not recommend opening the corrections center without the new officers. He said in the letter that he is hoping for a large turnout from the public at a presentation he will give on the new center at 4 p.m. Monday which will be followed by a tour of the new building.
He noted in his letter that the Belknap County Delegation voted 15-0 in favor of the $8 million bond for the community corrections center in November of 2015 and had been told prior to the vote that staff and programming costs were estimated at $650,183.
County Commissioners were scheduled to discuss the community corrections center when they met Thursday afternoon. They received an update from Dave DeVoy, (R-Sanbornton), chairman of the county commission and also the chairman of the Jail Planning Committee, about the latest date that work can be halted on the project if supplemental funds are not approved.
DeVoy said last week that "the drop-dead date is Aug. 15," after having been told by Andre Kloetz of Bauen Construction that is the date that work has to start on removing a women's bathroom in the old wing. The space will then be filled with a new air exchange system. Once that occurs, the old wing of the jail would no longer have sufficient bathroom facilities for female inmates.
Superintendent Gray has said that without the new officers, parts of the current jail would need to remain in use and that female prisoners would have to be transferred to another county, which would cost $34,500 a month.