County temporarily gives up IAH income

LIVINGSTON -- Follow-ing a closed, executive session to discuss the matter with their attorney, Polk County commissioners agreed Tuesday to waive the county’s fees from the IAH Detention Facility near Livingston for three months.

After the commissioners returned to open session, attorney Herb Bristow explained that due to a substantial drop in the number of inmates housed at the facility during the months of June, July and August, the income generated by the private detention center did not cover its expenses. The facility and its bond holders were asking the county to waive its fees for the months of September, October and November to help the facility recover from the previous shortfall.

The private detention facility primarily houses people being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under the contract with the facility and its bond holders, the county receives a per diem fee for each inmate in the facility, which means the monthly payments go up and down depending upon the number of prisoners held during any given month.

The county also receives a fee for the telephone calls made by the inmates and that income will not be interrupted because of Tuesday’s action.

County Judge Sydney Murphy noted after the meeting that by agreeing to waive their fees during the three-month period, they are helping the IAH facility stabilize its income which could result in larger monthly payments next year.

Bristow noted the inmate numbers have been increasing recently noting that as of Tuesday, the IAH facility was holding 560 prisoners. Murphy added she has been told by the facility management that 500 inmates is their “break event point.”

While it is not known how much money the county would have received during the temporary suspension, Murphy noted that based on previous experience, the loss will not significantly impact the county’s budget.

“No one’s job is in jeopardy because of this,” she said, noting that under the current budget, income from the IAH contract is earmarked for non-critical expenses.

Three years ago, the county agreed to waive its fees for an indefinite period when the facility, under its previous management, fell into a critical financial situation. The IAH income at that time was used to support all phases of the county’s operation and Murphy, shortly after taking office for her first term, was faced with cutting well over $1 million from that year’s budget to make up for that loss.

At that time county jobs were impacted as all department had to slash their budgets.

When the financial situation at IAH was finally stabilized, the county entered into a new contract with the facility earlier this year and the monthly payment were once again being received. However, under the current budget which went into effect on Oct. 1, the income was earmarked for capital purchases and other areas that would not create major problems should it be lost.

Other business
During the meeting, commissioners also:
Received the quarterly report from Mike Demarco, general manager for Santek Waste Services, the company which operates the Polk County Landfill near Leggett. He noted the amount of waste that went into the landfill jumped from 11,828 tons in August to 19,595 tons in September, with much of the increase attributed to “FEMA waste” collected because of Hurricane Harvey in late August.

Accepted the bids on eight new vehicles for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office from Caldwell Chevrolet at a cost not to exceed $353,400. The deal will include six trade-in vehicles. Two other PCSO vehicles that were on the trade-in list will be reassigned to the county’s maintenance and internet technology departments.

Accepted bids for the purchase of four pickup trucks for the Precinct 1 Road and Bridge Department from Grapevine Dodge.
Approved a resolution in support of grant application being submitted by the sheriff’s department for rifle resistant body armor.

Accepted bids for the purchase of new tires for the coming year. All bids were accepted except for one submitted by Simple Tires out of Pennsylvania.

Approved the holiday schedule for the coming year.