JEROME • The new Jerome County Jail is going to open its doors to inmates in about a month.
Most of the actual construction was done in late May, although contractors are still finishing up a few small things, said Sheriff Doug McFall.
The big outstanding piece is the backup generator, which needs to be in place before the city will issue an occupancy permit.
McFall said he had originally planned to put in a used generator he got from the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office. However, once it got here and was being installed, they found coolant in the oil and it would have taken too long to have it rebuilt, so they ordered another one.
The new generator, McFall said, will be shipped on June 16, and it will take a week or two to get it up and running. McFall said he expects to move inmates to the new jail in early July.
The 135-bed facility, which was built with an $11.2 million bond county voters passed in May 2013, has much more space than the county needs. Tuesday, there were about 30 inmates in the old jail, which McFall said is lower than usual — it usually ranges from about 40 to 80.
McFall said he has been talking to other counties about the possibility of boarding inmates but doesn’t have any commitments yet. However, the state of Idaho does plan to pay to house inmates in Jerome.
“They’ll take as many beds as we have available,” he said.
As of Tuesday, the state had 413 inmates boarded in county jails out of 7,668 in the system, Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said. The state used to have some inmates boarded out of state too, but brought them all back to Idaho a couple of months ago because of a declining prison population. Ray said IDOC don’t have any plans to send inmates out of state in the near future.
The state pays counties $45 per bed per night. McFall expects to house 30 to 35 state inmates, which he estimates after expenses will work out to a windfall to the county of about a third of a million per year.
“Typically, they send us the lowest-risk inmates because they don’t want inmates causing problems in local jails,” McFall said.
The money will go into the county’s general fund, McFall said, and it will be up to the commissioners to decide what to do with it. A few ideas have been discussed, including using it to pay down the bond faster, putting it into a savings account for future expansion at the jail and using it toward general fund expenses, Board of County Commissioners Chairman Charlie Howell said.