WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County will be lucky if it can maintain what it's paying now to house inmates at the Western Regional Jail, even though the cost has gone up about $300,000 in two years, the county's prosecutor told commissioners Tuesday.
Commissioners asked county Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia, Sheriff Steve Deweese and Chief Deputy Jack Luikart for ideas on how to reduce the $1.3 million cost that's taking a huge chunk out of the county's budget.
"A realistic goal would be to keep it the same," Sorsaia said. "I'm more concerned about it going up."
However, Deweese, who took office at the beginning of the year, told commissioners an error he noticed on criminal complaint forms that should start saving the county some money on the jail bill.
When police fill out paperwork after someone is arrested in the county who is charged with a crime in, say, Kanawha County, it's usually marked as Putnam, since that's where the arrest was made, he said. But when that happens, the regional jail bills Putnam for Kanawha's offenders, according to Deweese.
He told commissioners his office would closely monitor the forms to make sure it stops.
That's only a small fix, though, since in the last two years, the number of felony cases in Putnam has gone up by 20 percent, according to Sorsaia. And the driving force behind the caseload is drug addiction, which is leading to burglaries, among other crimes.
"The bottom line is that we're in a sea of addiction," he said, noting the need for drug treatment facilities for nonviolent offenders.
Last March, commissioners passed a $18.39 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which increased the county's levy rate by 0.3 cents per $100 of assessed property value -- from 13.55 to 13.85. They blamed the jail bill and little growth in the county at the time for the increase.