The debate on Tuesday about housing Federal prisoners in the McHenry County Jail started with Law & Justice Committee Chairman Sue Draffkorn trying to set the terms of debate.
With regard to the ten-year agreement with the Feds, Draffkorn pointed out that the resolution being considered did not increase it beyond October, 2015.
“We’re talking about getting $10 more until the end of the contract,” she said.
Next, Tina Hill, the woman with the gavel, called on Finance Chairman Mary McCann.
She did her best to blunt the criticism of her committee’s having been left out of the loop.
“We know the program is losing money,” she admitted.
The resolution being considered, she said, “is strictly a revenue contract. It’s going to bring us money on costs we’re already incurring, so, technically, [there was] no reason it had to come to Finance.”
Third up was Mike Walkup, who expressed the first exasperation at the Sheriff’s Office;
“I’m upset about not being able to get figures.”
County Administrator Peter Austin entered the discussion then.
“This agreement on rates is half of what you contracted with Joe Summerill to do. If [the resolution] is approved, we owe him $10,000 more.”
He went on to explain how much the man who supplied the best figures of what county taxpayers are losing on the jail contract has been paid already before saying,
“I don’t know if we’re going to get an agreement with [Immigration and Customs Enforced (called ICE for short)].
“This means new money for all of out [Federal inmates].”
Relying to the thrust of Walkup’s expressed frustration about not being able to get cost information, Austin said,
“It’s not a simple question. We have different kinds of inmates.”
Then, he pointed out,
“We have to have a jail for our own. The costs go incrementally down.
“We haven’t forced ourselves to ask that question.”
Austin said that his staff had “filled out their forms.
“Is that what our true costs are?
“I don’t know.”
“Obviously, the increase of $10 per day only means we’re losing $10 less per day,” Diane Evertsen pointed out.
“Until we get a handle on how much it’s costing us, McHenry County residents continue to be penalized [by] paying for the privilege of housing these persons.
“The question we’re on–‘What is it going to take to get an honest answer?’–is ‘How much?'”
Evertsen pointed out that, if the County were making “widgets,” we’d know how much it cost to produce each type.
“Somehow we are unable to track” costs for jailing inmates.
She asked that administrators exert “more diligence in getting these figures.”
Chair Hill interjected at this point,
“You’re right. We know we’re losing money.”
She did point out that the Feds gave the county $6.4 million to help pay for building out the empty third floor.
Hill concluded her comments with “…if we go forward [after the end of the current 10-year contract] and it’s a big ‘IF.'”
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