Oxford County inks deal for boarding prisoners

Sun Journal Aug. 17, 2016

PARIS — Oxford County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday (Aug. 18) to accept an offer from Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset to house inmates for a year.

Commissioners ignored a last-minute pitch from Cumberland County Manager Peter Crichton, who attended the meeting, to use that county's jail in Portland.

Commissioner Steven Merrill of Norway criticized Cumberland County for not negotiating in good faith and made a motion to accept the Two Bridges proposal.

Crichton did not respond.

Cumberland County officials notified Oxford County earlier this year that they would more than double the cost for boarding inmates, from $50 per day to $108 per day, starting July 1.

That notice sent Oxford County's administration scrambling to find an alternative. They contacted Two Bridges, which offered to provide fixed-rate boarding for $600,000 from Sept. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017. The estimated number of inmates would be 25, but the number could vary at the same cost, and there would be no per diem charges.

After commissioners voted to further explore the proposal, Cumberland County Jail administrators sent a message Aug. 3, offering a nearly identical proposal, Oxford County Administrator Scott Cole said at the time.

That irked Merrill, he said Tuesday.

"They more than doubled their daily rate for our prisoners ... and weren't willing to negotiate at all originally," Merrill said Tuesday evening. "Twin Bridges was willing to negotiate."

"I think we're on more solid ground with Twin Bridges," he said.

Oxford County's jail in Paris was switched from a full-time jail to a 72-hour holding facility under a 2007 law consolidating the operations of the state's 15 county jails with the Maine Department of Corrections through a unified state Board of Corrections. Therefore, prisoners held for more than 72 hours are boarded at full-time jails in other counties.

Sheriff Wayne Galllant said Tuesday evening that the commissioners' approval ends an issue that has plagued the county for several months and saves the county $100,000.

Oxford County was paying Cumberland County about $700,000 a year to take its prisoners and would have had to pay an estimated $1.5 million if it accepted the new boarding rate.

"We tried to negotiate in good faith with Cumberland County," Gallant said, because "their prices were outrageous. They said they would not budge. They said they couldn't afford it."

However, after Two Bridges made an offer of $600,000, "Cumberland County said they would match Two Bridges prices," he said. "My recommendation was to go with Two Bridges because they negotiated.

"In the long run, it saves Oxford County taxpayers $100,000," he said."This is going to help us," he said. "I'm looking forward to working with Two Bridges."