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Adult detention center overcrowding makes hole in Curry County funds

Curry County is facing a $1.3 million shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year, due mostly to the cost of housing county prisoners out of state, officials said.

County Manager Geneva Cooper told commissioners on Tuesday that preliminary figures for the 2004-2005 budget show the county with total revenues of $5.7 million, but total expenditures of $7 million.

Expenditures at the county’s adult detention center are projected to reach more than $3.1 million, an increase of more than $841,000 over last year, according to county documents.

The cost of housing prisoners in Dickens and Parmer counties in Texas is projected to reach $1.4 million next year, Cooper said.

That estimate was reached by taking the cost of housing the prisoners in January — at $17,000, the most expensive month so far this year — and multiplying that by 12 months, Cooper said.

“Other months have been less, but since we expect the prisoner population to continue increasing, we feel we have to budget for that,” Cooper said.

Detention Center Administrator Don Burdine said the detention center held 201 prisoners on April 5, with 121 prisoners in Dickens Co., seven in other facilities, and 12 more in other types of custody.

Cooper said commissioners will discuss ways to make up the budget shortfall at their next meeting.

Between $300,000 and $500,000 in savings may be carried into next year’s budget, she said.

Also, commissioners may either increase county property taxes or inset additional gross receipts taxes made available to counties in the last Legislative session, she said.

However, none of the tax increase money would be available to the county until January 2005, she added.

To reduce the need to send prisoners out of state, county commissioners voted Tuesday to fund remodeling the former Clovis Fitness Center, in the 800 block of Main Street, into a detention center annex, using a tax revenue bond worth $1.3 million.

They will hold a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. today in the Curry County Courthouse to consider a notice of intent to adopt an ordinance authorizing the bond. If they approve the notice, the commissioners will hold a public meeting on the bond issue in the courthouse April 26.

Cooper said the bond will be funded with proceeds from a 1/8 percent county gross receipts tax already in place.

The commissioners also voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve bids for the annex construction Tuesday, pending approval of the financing.

The bids include:

• LCI-2 Inc., of Clovis, received a contract for remodeling the building for just under $1.2 million.

• Fuller Plumbing Supply, of Clovis, received a contract to provide prison-style toilets, for $33,615.

• Two Draw Welding, of Post, Texas, received a contract to construct cells at the annex, for $102,330.

Commissioner Tim Ashley abstained from the vote, saying he sells concrete to at least one of the companies.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved the intent to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the issuance of same sex marriage licenses, sponsored by Ashley, on a vote of 3 to 1, with one abstention.

Commission Chairwoman Kathrynn Tate said she voted against the motion because the state attorney general is already studying a state law to prohibit same sex licenses and she trusts County Clerk Mario Trujillo to “use common sense to make that type of decision.”

Commissioner Pete Hulder said he abstained because he also does not feel this is the right time to pass such a motion.

“I feel like we don’t need to stir up a hornets’ nest,” he said.

• Approved sending a letter to Gov. Bill Richardson expressing concern about the actions of the governor-appointed Community Development Council, which on March 17 failed to award a $500,000 grant to the county to help fund building an overpass over State Road 467.

County Grant Facilitator Twila Rutter-Wooley said the council’s actions at the meeting seemed to violate its own regulations.

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