JAY - A new plan of action to avoid litigation with the Oklahoma State Department of Health was devised during a special meeting of the Delaware County Public Facilities Authority Thursday afternoon.
OSDH has filed a lawsuit against the county concerning overcrowding violations at the Delaware County Jail.
District Attorney Eddie Wyant relayed to the trust members a plan that he thought might be a “quick fix” to avoid being fined by the state. He proposed entering into a contract with the Ottawa County Jail for 20 beds in their facility in Miami.
According to Wyant the facility in Miami contracts 22 beds to the Department of Corrections. He said the sheriff of Ottawa County would be willing to contract 20 beds to Delaware County at a cost of $31.50 a day per prisoner which is the cost that DOC pays per prisoner. He added that the sheriff might even consider a cost of $27.50, which is what DOC pays to hold prisoners awaiting transport.
Wyant told the members that he had proposed the plan to Charles Broadway, Assistant General Counsel for the State Health Department, and was told by Broadway that if Delaware County contracted the 20 beds and was in compliance for a 30-day period with the overcrowding situation, the lawsuit would be dropped.
“You have to remember that this is only a quick fix. We still have to come up with a long term solution. This will just buy the county some time to come up with a new plan. This will just get the threat of the lawsuit off our back,” said Wyant.
To finance the contract, Wyant proposed that the authority pass a .1% sales tax increase, which would be used to pay Ottawa County for housing the prisoners and to pay for medical expenses that the prisoners would incur, as well as transportation from county to county.
Wyant proposed that the .1% sales tax would be temporary until the authority could regroup and bring a new proposal to the voters to build the new jail.
“This would be a huge deal for Delaware County and give us a chance to take a deep breath and come back to the table. A .1% sales tax increase shouldn't bring a lot of heartburn,” said Wyant.
Wyant said options such as community sentencing and other programs, which would involve not incarcerating non-violent offenders, had been considered, but these programs need funding and time to implement. He said that similar programs the county has in place now are losing funding and his office does not have money to fund any new programs.
At the end of his proposal, the authority voted to move ahead with a .1% sales tax increase to be brought to the voters possibly in January.
This will allow time for the sheriff in Ottawa County and the sheriff in Delaware County to come up with terms for a contract.
“You have to remember that this is just a band-aid. The state wants to see us move forward with a permanent solution,” Wyant reminded the members. “This only buys us some time.”
The next meeting of the Delaware County Public Facilities Authority will be held on Wed., Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room of the Delaware County Courthouse.