During the regular meeting of the Johnson County Fiscal Court, Johnson County Judge-Executive Mark McKenzie directed the attention of the county commissioners to an unspecified large cost on the court’s monthly statements attributed to “involuntary evaluations,” which prompted questions about the costs from Commissioner Mike Jarrell, who also questioned costs related to jail housing costs at the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center.

“Next is a presentation of the monthly bills, you have your claims list, as well as a few additional claims that, if you have any questions on those, please feel free to ask, myself or Betty Picklesimer would be happy to answer those questions for you,” McKenzie said, then pointing out the larger-than-normal cost of the evaluations. “Just one note, you know, you’ll notice there’s a significant payment for August services for involuntary evaluations, that’s still an ongoing challenge for us, cost-wise to the fiscal court, that’s something that’s required by the state, that we have to pay those costs, so that’s something that has, unfortunately, grown the last few months.”

Jarrell then asked if the fiscal court had any options on the payment of the evaluation fees, a question which McKenzie directed to County Attorney Mike Endicott.

“No, not really,” Endicott said. “We have a lot more than pretty much every county around, though. There’s one group in town that’s causing that problem.”

“We have some circumstances here in our county that causes us to face a higher cost, than other counties do, but it’s something we try to have conversations about, but at the end of the day, it’s a legal process, that as long as it meets the legal requirements, it’s something that has to be performed,” McKenzie said.

The fiscal court then moved into approval for transfers and financials, which included the monthly transfer of $50,000 to the BSRDC, which Commissioner Tim Salyer prompted a discussion of, stating that the costs for this had been higher in the past few months.

“The jail fund, it’s been up the last couple of months,” Salyer said.

“It has,” McKenzie replied. “You have a person sitting beside you there that could probably help weigh in on that as much as anybody. We did have a meeting with the administrator, Mike and I did, a few weeks ago, generally, to talk to them about clarification of some of the inmate charges to Johnson County. (Picklesimer) did take a look at that and then passed it on to Mike Endicott as he deals with that on a daily basis. We did find a few items on there, that they’re going to take a look at that could have been a misapplication of some of the policy, I think that were outside of even their policy, it’s the state, right, Mike.”

“Yes, it’s just a matter of us having more arrests,” Endicott said.

Jarrell then asked how that billing process worked, whether it was the county where the individual lived that paid costs associated with an inmate, or if it was the county wherein the arrest was made, which McKenzie and Endicott indicated was attributed to the “county of possession.”

“It’s not the county of arrest, it’s the county of possession,” McKenzie said.

Endicott added that, if it was within the four-county district of the BSRDC, the costs fell to the county wherein the arrest was made.

“So, for example, though, let’s say if someone gets arrested in Johnson County on a Magoffin County warrant, then Magoffin County is responsible for those charges.”

“Because they’re part of the regional jail system,” Endicott added.

“And they were the originating county of the warrant that prompted the arrest,” McKenzie said.

“So, if an individual from Magoffin County gets arrested, then gets out, walks around town for a couple of days and steals something and gets arrested in Johnson County now, is he now our bill,” Jarrell asked.

“Correct,” McKenzie said. “The other thing that we talked to the administrator about, as well, Mike, is that, you know, you could have someone who is from outside one of our four counties and has a warrant out for them from another county, let’s say Boone County, Northern Kentucky, and they end up in Johnson County and they do something to prompt being pulled over or questioned or whatever, and they find their warrant on them from Boone County, and they’re arrested on a Boone County warrant, so then, that’s when you have a different process of trying to get that inmate moved back to Boone County as quickly as possible.

“(Endicott) and I, having that conversation, we all came to that conclusion or were reminded of the rulings that are out there, that there’s a timeline which those counties have to come pick those inmates up, or there’s some actions you can take to try and remedy those charges,” McKenzie said.

Endicott then referenced a lawsuit from several years ago, in which the ruling was made that Johnson County would continue to pay upfront for such inmates and seek reimbursement from the county of possession.

“That really needs to be addressed with the legislature and changed,” Endicott said.

“Yeah, it’s staggering,” McKenzie said. “It pretty much ends up taking the bulk of your property tax revenue just to support your jail. The numbers, obviously, are higher, because your cost of operations is up, therefore your daily cost is up, and our monthly bill is now going up. So, we’re constantly trying to find ways and having these meetings and discussions. Everybody wants to try and be as efficient as they can in their decision making process and applying the policies, but there’s just a lot of moving parts to it. That’s why we felt like it was helpful to have a meeting with them a couple of weeks ago, so we all are working toward the same goal of trying to help each other out, you know, implementing policies properly. Good question, though, I’m sorry we don’t have any definitive answers.”

“I don’t know if there’s not been a training that we’ve been to that this has not been brought up, it’s a dilemma. It’s a vicious cycle, because you’ve got, on one hand, you’re trying to clean your town up, and your bill is so high, it’s just hard, I’m just venting, I guess,” Jarrell said.

“The public at large wants these people to stay in jail, but the longer they stay in jail, the more it costs,” Endicott said.

The Johnson County Fiscal Court meets on the second Monday of each month at 4:45 p.m. in the Johnson County Fiscal Courtroom on Court St. and all meetings are open to the public.