Addressing commissioners

Larry Green Jr. spoke to the Hunt County Commissioners Tuesday as Joseph Summerill prepared his notes during a discussion of increasing pay for housing federal prisoners in the Hunt County Detention Center.

The Hunt County Commissioners Court heard a proposal Tuesday which could conceivably bring in hundreds of thousands of additional funding annually to pay for housing federal prisoners in the Hunt County Detention Center.

The Hunt County Sheriff’s Office, however, is asking the commissioners to wait on the proposal, as it has concerns about the deal.

The commissioners, except for Judge John Horn who was unable to attend the meeting, heard from Daniel Ray, the county’s civil attorney, local attorney Larry Green Jr. and Joseph Summerill with the Summerill Group.

Ray explained that Summerill specializes in negotiating higher per diem rates for local jails housing federal prisoners, such as those being held by the U.S. Marshals Service.

“I’ve looked over the contract and have approved what’s in there,” Ray said of Summerill’s proposal, although he said there were a few typographical errors which would need to be addressed with the document.

“It doesn’t affect the bottom line, which the goal here is to get us more money,” Ray said. “It would not effect the amount Mr. Summerill is paid.”

Green said the county is receiving compensation under a contract signed in 2006, with the per diem costs the same as was agreed to a dozen years ago.

“Costs tend to go up and they have gone up,’ Green said.

Summerill said he has worked for 72 counties in 23 states during the past 10 years and believes those counties that try go it alone in negotiating with federal officials use the wrong methods of presenting their costs.

“That system is not synched with how the Feds do it,” Summerill said. “We know exactly what costs they are looking for.”

The county is currently receiving $43 per day to house each federal inmate, whereas Summerill believes the figure should be closer to $55.42.

The county also receives $23.66 per day to transport federal inmates for medical testing and treatment and for staying with the inmates at a hospital.

“We would ask for $26.42,” he said.

Summerill believes the numbers could be even higher if the county and federal officials agree to an extended contract of 36 months or longer.

“We may be able to lock it in at 60 months for $58,” Summerill said of the potential per diem costs.

Summerill said the county could receive an additional $330,000 annually under the higher per diem rates.

Once the commissioners sign off on the proposal, Summerill said he would then present it to the negotiators with the Marshals Service, which would have 30 days to either accept it or send it back to the county.

“We can get this thing done ... easily within three months,” Summerill said.

If the contract is approved, Summerill would receive the equivalent of three month’s worth of the county’s increased per diem rates.

But prior to the commissioners voting on the issue, Hunt County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Buddy Oxford stepped forward and asked the commissioners to table the matter.

“Because we may not want to execute this contract,” Oxford said, without elaborating.

The commissioners placed the issue under old business for the May 22 meeting.

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