The Fayette County Commissioners held their organizational meeting Monday and named Dan Dean the 2017 chairman.
Dean accepted the position Monday as Jack DeWeese was also named the co-chair. Business resumed and the commissioners discussed various issues and goals for 2017. One of the items discussed was an increase in the children currently being serviced by the foster care system within the county. Last year, Dean said, it was somewhere around 30 to 40 and that number has nearly doubled.
“They were saying last week they were at 62 or 63,” Dean said. “We think it may have something to do with the opiate problem.”
“That is a real struggle on the budget when you have to bump up to that many, but we find ways,” Commissioner Tony Anderson said. “I think the court has been good with all of us in that respect to try and keep families somewhat together. I think it is believed that the child is better suited to stay with family than with strangers.”
The commissioner said that the people who handle issues in the foster care system in the county building are struggling with their budget because of this increase. It is due to this that they requested additional funding from the commissioners.
“Sometimes they will exceed their budget because some of the kids do have special needs and some will run over $100,000 a year to care for the child,” Dean said. “As I recall some of those numbers were approaching $500,000 a year to care for 40 or 50 kids in that sense. There are a lot of foster parents in the county and it would be nice if there were others that wanted to try and qualify to become a foster parent. We have some kids who need to go further away from the county and when you send them that far, it is still the office here who has the responsibility to do interviews, check-ups and so on. This puts a demand on the number of available employees as well and increases the budget overall.”
The commissioners also discussed the recent application for a Local Government Capital Safety Grant. This was done in cooperation with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Washington Court House and the villages of Octa, Milledgeville, Jeffersonville and Bloomingburg and will start the process for constructing a new county jail. The commissioners applied for the max amount of $500,000 and said they are hoping for an answer in mid-March.
“We applied for the max to get started on the new jail project,” Dean said. “That money can be used for some of the studies that need to be done, which include one about the land where we need to place it, possibly an update on the size we need and others. We want to make sure that we build one that lasts 30 to 50 years to take care of the needs of the county.”
The commissioners said that with any project of this size a lot of research needs to go into it before it begins. They need to estimate how many inmates they may need room for, consider the issues that will be facing those inmates, learn how to bring the new jail up to code and other costly yet important problems.
“There are some funds available to do some treatments and counseling for people with addiction problems, who are in jail, if you are able to isolate them and have a one on one interaction, which is currently not possible in the jail,” Dean said. “In the new facility this may be possible. About how much room we need is one of the studies we are alluding to. We had one done many years ago and one a couple years ago, and we want to get it updated, but it considers arrests, population, expected population growth and all of those predictors that could indicate a rise in the need for beds at the jail.”
The commissioners said that currently the number of beds that need to be available in the new jail is around 100, but they do want to update it to make certain. The trio also discussed other issues facing the county in 2017, but ultimately said they are glad to work for this community. Despite having increased bills, the commissioners were confident in their ability, thanks to the residents, to be able to address any issues that might arise.
Stay with the Record-Herald weekly for updates on the commissioners’ office. The Fayette County Commissioners’ Office is located at 133 S. Main St. and can be reached at (740) 335-0720.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy