No Money for Jail

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1-4-07 The most recent escape from the Bryan County Jail two weeks ago brings up the question of whether enough money is being spent on the county jail and how much money is being spent throughout the rest of the county.

Twenty-one people have escaped from the Bryan County jail in the past two year, fifteen last year alone. By the end of February, Bryan County authorities say the jail will have no more money.

"You cannot take the jail and fund everything before the jail and then take care of the jail and that's what's been done," Monty Montgomery, County Commissioner District 1, said.

Montgomery took office as a new commissioner in November and said he doesn't know why the jail becomes a last priority.

"I dont know why the jail is not properly funded," Montgomery said. "I can't answer that question."

It's that lack funding that county officials say has led to problems with general upkeep, staffing, and ultimately, jail escapes.

The Jail Trust Authority asked for $1,000,000 for the jail, according to the Bryan County budget for 2006-2007. They received only a quarter of that amount.

The jail isn't the only county agency struggling to work effectively.

"We oughta have 20 to 25 deputies in this county," Bill Sturch, Bryan County sheriff said. "But right now we have 7 deputies covering the county seven days a week 24 hours a day."

Sheriff Sturch said he's grateful to those deputies who choose to stay in Bryan County because he knows they could make more money in other counties.

"My deputies can go somewhere else and make $10,000-$15,000 more," Sturch said. "The reason they don't leave is because this is their home, and they stay."

Sturch's office asked for $900,000 but only received $220,000, a 25% decrease from two-and-a-half years ago. He says they are doing the best they can with the funds they have.

The Sheriff's office purchased a twin engine aircraft for $1,000 to transport prisoners across the country. After flying it for a year, he hopes the plane could bring some more money back into the county.

"The big thing is we can fly that a year or a couple of times a year and five years from now we can sell it for $100,000 to $200,000," Sturch said.

As for the other Bryan County agencies, officials say raising taxes is an option, and might be the solution in the long-run. For now, the immediate solution is needed to help the jail move into the next year.

"You can't get enough money, theres no way we can possibly take away from other county offices and give to the jail," Montgomery said. "What we can do is take a combination of things and make it work before we run out of money. We have to try to do that."