The Livingston County Jail is closing indefinitely, and the 25 inmates now housed at the facility were being transferred today (Wednesday) to the Daviess DeKalb County Regional Jail in Pattonsburg.

Livingston County Commissioners and Sheriff Steve Cox made the announcement jointly during a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the commissioner's room at the courthouse. Extremely costly and critical repair needs were cited as reasons to close the facility, as well as staffing issues to safely and securely run the jail.

"We do not have adequate revenue or reserves in Law Enforcement Sales Tax or general revenue to properly address any of these issues," Presiding Commissioner Eva Danner stated.

Local officials also took into consideration the unfunded federal mandate of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (estimated by the feds to be a $50,000 annual additional expense for Livingston County, beginning with 2013) and the expected loss of reimbursements on prisoner per diem from the state of Missouri. In 2010, reimbursements for prisoners by the state was nearly $160,000, while for 2012, it appears to be approximately $110,000.

"All of us are in agreement that, at this time, we are not willing to ask our citizens to support an additional bond or tax issue to cover the significant costs to properly repair and staff the current jail facility," Danner stated.

The commissioners and sheriff stated that the best solution is for the county to contract its jail needs with the Daviess DeKalb County Regional Jail, located in Pattonsburg, about 60 miles from Chillicothe.

"This agreement is expected to permit us to live within our means and not ask for additional revenue," Danner stated. "This will also free up additional staff hours for the deputies and sheriff to conduct law enforcement work and investigations instead of guarding detainees."

The five full-time detention officers at the jail have been notified their positions are being eliminated in the near future.

The commissioner stated that the county will periodically review this matter for future considerations of other alternatives.

East District Commissioner Ken Lauhoff stated that jails are too costly for counties to operate and that some type of a regional jail might be pursued sometime in the future.

"It's very difficult for any one county to have a jail anymore because of the tremendous overhead to build it, and the tremendous overhead to staff it," he said. "It is just virtually impossible for a county to have a jail, staff it, and run it. We're talking about millions and millions of dollars."

At this time, the county plans to continue its 911 dispatch service.

Citing the challenging economic times, Cox said that he didn't believe that now was the time to ask for a bond issue. He stated that it was a difficult decision, but that it was the right step at the right time.

"It's not good to let people go," he said of his detention staff members who will soon be without jobs. "But, if we don't do it, we won't be able to live within our means."

He also stressed safety of detention officers as a concern, adding that one employee is off from work after having surgery on his shoulder due to an incident at the jail involving a violent inmate.

"Our people are in danger at all times." he said.

He said sheriff office employees, including deputies, have been spending a lot of their time assisting with jail issues when they need to be serving the public in other ways. Without having the demand to staff the jail, sheriff's deputies will have more time to devote to law enforcement issues, rather than using their resources transporting inmates to court and dealing with jail-related issues. He provided information about the events of a recent day.

"We had 27 inmates to come to circuit court, up on the third floor," Cox said. "On those law days, we still have a deputy or two at the metal detector on the first floor, we're still required to put a bailiff in the courtroom, but there were five of us on and we were consumed all day with nothing but inmate issues. If we had a significant call, that was the only thing we could respond on."

"But, we had people who called in and they may have had a trash dumping — it may be trivial to someone else, but it's important to them. They deserve a response from us."

Plumbing issues appeared to be among the largest dollar items for repair, but other issues were prevalent as well, including the camera system and interior fixtures. Part of the jail will be maintained as a temporary holding facility that could be used during law days.

The Daviess DeKalb County Regional Jail has a capacity of 300 inmates. The facility be responsible for transporting Livingston County's inmates to and from court appearances at no extra charge, and the county will be charged $30 per day to house an inmate, which is less than the $40 rate the Livingston County Jail had charged other agencies for housing their offenders. There is a one-time $25 transportation fee per inmate.

He noted that the regional jail has video capabilities to assist with court appearances to possibly reduce the transportation needs of the inmates, and to also provide a convenience for visitations.