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County commissioners continue to see jail bills impacted by drug epidemic

CANAAN VALLEY, W.Va.¬†—¬†County commissioners from throughout West Virginia are expressing similar concerns at their annual meeting taking place at Canaan Valley.

The County Commissioners’ Association of West Virginia was the focus of Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” that broadcast live from the meeting.

Several of the commissioners that spoke with “Talkline” Host Hoppy Kercheval said the state’s drug epidemic has driven up the bills they pay to the state Regional Jail Authority.

Agnes Queen

“Our jail bill used to be about $300,000 a year. It’s running us close to $1 million or a $1 million plus every year,” Lewis County Commissioner Agnes Queen said.

“We spend more on our jail bill in one month than we spend economic development for our whole county for an entire year,” Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett said.

“The money we spend on the regional jail could be used so much more to the benefit of the county but we have the bill facing us every year,” Jackson County Commissioner Dick Waybright said.

State law requires county governments to pay a per diem rate for each inmate arrested and jailed from their counties, municipalities, where many of the arrests take place, do not pay the per diem. Puckett said he hoped something could be worked out with the municipalities.

“We’ve got to be able to come together better. I think in many ways we are but that particular area we struggle,” Puckett said.

Greg Puckett

The commissioners gave high marks to the state Division of Highways crews that have been busy in recent months with maintenance issues on secondary roads.

“You can see the change taking place,” association president, Summers County Commissioner Jack Woodrum said. “The ditches are getting done, the brush is getting cut and they’re (DOH) absolutely right, if you don’t do these things the road is going to disintegrate.”

Queen said she’s noticed DOH crews working overtime.

“We can’t doubt those local guys. In our county they are out there working even after four o’clock. We’re thankful for those out there doing their jobs,” Queen said.

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