By Abigail W. Adams
In a special commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, Aug. 11, commissioner Bill Blodgett (left) resigned from the Lincoln and Sagadahoc Multicounty Jail Authority board to instead serve as an alternate member. Commissioner Hamilton Meserve will take Blodgett’s seat as a board member. (Abigail Adams photo)
The Lincoln Sagadahoc Multicounty Jail Authority will have two new representatives from Lincoln County to guide Two Bridges Regional Jail into an uncertain future. According to the statute that governs the jail authority, the 12-member board is to be composed of six representatives from each county.
Each county should have two commissioners serving on the board, the statute says. In a special commissioners’ meeting held Tuesday, Aug. 11, Commissioner William Blodgett resigned from his position as a full board member. Blodgett will maintain involvement as an alternate member.
According to Blodgett, scheduling conflicts were the cause of his resignation. Blodgett also serves as president of the Maine County Commissioners Association, which has an enormous stake in the future of the county corrections system, he said.
Commissioner Hamilton Meserve will serve with Commissioner Mary Trescot as a full member of the board. “This is an honor for me,” Meserve said. Meserve intends to draw on his experience as a county legislator on the criminal justice council in Dutchess County, N.Y., in service to the jail authority.
Meserve is particularly interested in diversion and alternatives to incarceration and hopes to ensure continued funding for those programs, he said.
Denise Barr was appointed to serve as a Lincoln County community representative on the jail authority at the Aug. 4 commissioners’ meeting. Barr fills the seat previously held by Sheridan Bond, who is now an alternate member.
Two Bridges Regional Jail is currently operating on a two-month budget, adopted due to the uncertainty surrounding LD 186, An Act to Reverse Jail Consolidation, which was one of the 65 bills caught up in the veto dispute between Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature.
The Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion on Aug. 6 stating LePage missed his veto opportunity and the 65 bills LePage attempted to veto were now law. Due to flaws contained in LD 186 – now Public Law 2015, Chapter 335 – the future of “flagship jails,” jails with the mission of boarding out-of-county inmates, is uncertain.
The legislation simultaneously eliminated the ability of receiving jails to charge boarding rates for out-of-county inmates while creating a state distribution formula that provides state aid to the county where the inmate originates, as opposed to the jail that houses them.
The jail authority stepped out in front of the curve by entering into a $1.2 million contract to house Waldo County inmates for the 2015-2016 fiscal year in July. The jail authority’s executive committee entered into a contract with the state to house 10 state prisoners for a two-year period at $25 per day in addition to $1.75 per meal on July 31.
Despite the low per diem rate for state inmates – jail officials place the cost of housing a single inmate at well over $100 per day – the contract will be a source of guaranteed revenue for Two Bridges at a time when revenue sources are in question, executive committee members said. The revenue stream will help Two Bridges bridge the gap in meeting its fixed costs, which remain regardless of the number of inmates.
The jail authority will discuss whether Two Bridges Regional Jail will continue to accept inmates from other counties with no clear avenue to receive funding for them at the next authority meeting. As of Aug. 11, the state funding for county jails, outlined in the recently enacted legislation, has not yet been distributed.