Delaware County has once more been granted a temporary reprieve from being fined by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) for the overcrowding problem at the county jail.
According to District Attorney Eddie Wyant, the reprieve is most likely due to the fact that the jail tax came closer to passing in the last election than it had previously, combined with the fact that there has been some turnover of OSDH staff during the past few months.
Wyant said he has kept pursuing continuances in the case, which was originally filed in 2006.
The latest court date that had been set for the case was May 5. However, Wyant said he was able to get another continuance when he called the new attorney who had taken the case over after the attorney that had been on the case since 2006 was fired.
“I told him we only lost by four votes – that we just about got it passed,” he explained. “That seems very encouraging, and they (OSDH) can see that county citizens see a need for a new jail.
“Hopefully we will be able to come to a solution with the city council in Grove and have something back on the ballot very soon,” he added.
Wyant said that in addition to hopeful signs that the county would be able to implement a viable plan to alleviate the overcrowding problem, OSDH has had several staff changes that have helped the county’s cause.
He said the new attorney he spoke to replaced the previous attorney who represented the state in the lawsuit, but that the new attorney was also leaving.
“Whenever you change attorneys it takes time for the new attorney to become familiar with the case,” Wyant said.
OSDH Director Don Garrison also retired on May 1, so the department is going through another transition as well.
“All of this has worked to our advantage,” Wyant said.
However, Wyant said, the county is not off the hook.
“The lawsuit hasn’t gone away,” Wyant said.
The county could face maximum fines of $10,000 per day if it fails to solve the overcrowding issue within a reasonable amount of time.
He said he hoped county officials would continue to work together to find a solution to the problem.
“My job is to keep us from getting fined,” he said. “Hopefully we will be able to get something worked out this year.”