CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (AP) - A proposal for a regional jail in northeast Kentucky aimed at saving taxpayers money has fallen apart.
Carter County and Boyd County fiscal courts voted unanimously to dissolve the agreement Tuesday.
The jail was proposed in 2012 with the goal of expanding and retaining federal prisoners housed in the counties' facilities and saving taxpayer money.
At the time, few federal prisoners were being housed in Boyd County. Therefore, the regional jail could lead to an increase in federal inmates and increased revenue in Boyd.
Boyd County Judge-Executive William "Bud"?Stevens says he supported the jail, but Carter County Judge-Executive Charles Wallace sent a letter on Aug. 6, saying the Carter County Fiscal Court is backing out of the agreement.
The Kentucky Jailers Association joined jailers in Boyd and Carter counties in filing the suit Tuesday in Frankfort.
Court documents say the plan to operate two separate facilities under one authority doesn't meet state requirements for a regional jail.
According to the complaint, state statutes for a regional jail call for one facility that takes inmates from more than one county.
Officials in both counties approved the controversial measure saying it would save money.
Boyd County decided to cautiously move forward. In Carter County, they had to physically remove agitators.
Before the fiscal court verbal fireworks started, Carter County's judge-executive had the vote to begin a Regional Jail Authority tabled. Judge Charles Wallace said the tabling was because of misinformation in a newspaper.
But the judge still believes putting Carter and Boyd jails under one business administration will save big dollars.
”We can go after food cheaper," Wallace said. "We can go after medical services cheaper -- all cheaper then what we pay now, and it will all add up in the long run.”
Many in the packed courthouse opposed the regional jail idea. One man was removed for telling the judge or a magistrate that they were “full of it.”
Then, Grayson Mayor George Steele said what many were thinking.
“You have three to four people in that jail that you want to get rid of, and this is the only way you can get rid of them," Steele said. "We've got to call this what it is, Charles.”
One of the three or four Steele was talking about -- outspoken Carter County Jailer R.W. Boggs, who calls the proposal a political power play.
“I publicly challenge Charles Wallace to a debate in Carter County, right now, anytime, anywhere," Boggs said.
Meanwhile, at the same time in Boyd County, they passed a Regional Jail Authority ordinance, which the judge-executive cautiously back pedaled on.
“This will get us going in the right direction, and if it does not pan out we can always abolish it,” Judge Bud Stevens said.
However, between Boyd and Carter -- with elected officials at odds and an angry public -- the right direction for a Regional Jail Authority seems a matter of divided political opinion.
Carter County's regional jail vote was tabled until mid-September -- if not before.
A special meeting was held Tuesday at the old Carter County courthouse where county officials and jailers from across the area came to discuss the potential of creating a regional jail.
Four of five magistrates were present at the meeting and voted on the regional jail ordinance.
The vote ended two to two and the county's Judge Executive made the deciding vote. The final vote passed the hearing on to the next reading – three votes for and two votes against.
A second hearing is expected to take place in the next week to make the final vote.
Boyd County was also involved in the original regional jail plan -- but they have tabled the issued.
Carter County officials tell WSAZ.com it will take more than one county to be involved to create a regional jail.
On Wednesday, fired-up friends and foes from both sides took steps forward and back.
Emotions ran high at a special Boyd County Fiscal Court meeting. A packed crowd came to hear a second reading of an ordinance to form a regional jail authority between Boyd and Carter counties -- all with an eventual goal of building a new jail to replace both county detention centers.
Why is this happening? The answers cover polar opposite views.
“This was done in darkness," Carter County Jailer R.W. Boggs says. "It’s a dirty political move to grab power, and those who vote yes will have to answer to voters in 2014.”
Boyd County Judge-Executive Bud Stevens says, “This is about economics, money, and that's all it is about.”
Stevens' partner in the region jail proposal, Carter County Judge-Executive Charles Wallace, would only say off-camera he can't pave roads because of jail costs and something has to change.
About two dozen county jailers came in force to tell Stevens that studies show the option to best balance jail costs with tight county budgets is the status quo.
Stevens initially said a regional jail would save $1.5 million for the two counties -- that number largely relying on big federal prisoner payments.
The two elected jailers would essentially become transportation bosses. They say the plan would not only lose money, but in Boyd County’s case, the community jail work program would suffer because federal prisoners can’t work.
After hearing an earful and saying he would now listen to all new ideas, Stevens tabled the regional jail proposal -- but keying that decision on some late financial news
“We're not sure we will get federal-end inmates," Stevens said. "That was the basis for us, that money from the federal government.”
With the tabling, a battle was won, but the regional jail proposal war seems far from over.
Carter County has a special fiscal court meeting on the regional jail proposal set at 10 a.m. next Wednesday.