Bryan County commissioners, sheriff re-open jail funding debate

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BRYAN COUNTY, OK -- Sheriff Ken Golden and The Board of County Commissioners debated the budget for the new jail in front of the excise board Thursday.

The Board voted 2-1 last month to keep funding at the same level.

But Commissioners re-opened the debate after Commissioner Monty Montgomery convinced the board to re-visit the issue.

"We've already got the money budgeted until the end of the fiscal year. Can we keep it until the end of this fiscal year," Golden asked the board. 'I'd just like a little more time to make sure we have the staffing we need, that we're not cutting too much."

Montgomery wants to reduce the jail budget by cutting staff immediately.

"That's a total of $60,000 that will cost the County to find out whether they need those extra people or not" he said.

Golden said they have 34 officers employed right now. Montgomery wants to cut at least three officers. And he doesn't like that a few officers work in the courthouse - not the jail itself.

"I believe as long as he has two to three in another office, in another location, that he can operate the jail with that many less," Montgomery said.

With the opening of the new jail addition, they closed the old auxiliary jail and moved the inmates here. Montgomery said since they're now only operating one jail, they don't need as many staff members.

But Golden doesn't want to change anything yet.

"That's all I'm asking for, just that amount of time that has already been appropriated in the budget to use that to the very best we can," he said.

Golden said a few veteran officers told him they would quit if commissioners cut funding.

"Their fear is that if the budget is cut, there wouldn't be sufficient officers on staff to respond to emergencies to help them if they are needing help," Golden said.

He said he's just worried about safety - especially with the open-bay style cells.

"We just want to make sure that we're going in the right direction and not cutting prematurely,"

Commissioners will vote April 22 on how to fund the jail for the rest of this fiscal year. They'll make their final recommendation to the excise board, who will make the final decision.

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