Wednesday, December 29, 2010

McLennan Commissioners Court Settles For Two Bits On The Dollar

Until private jail operator CEC, Inc., finds some more prisoners, McLennan County will settle for two bits on the dollar for a private contractor to not operate its downtown jail.

By extending for another six months an agreement to let the New Jersey-based corporation shift federal prisoners to the new Jack Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6, the County Commissioners Court accepted 25 percent of a $40,000 per month fee they had waved six months ago.

If that's not complicated enough, add to the equation the simple fact that it's a compromise within a compromise, something Commissioners Lester Gibson and Kelly Snell worked with County Attorney Herb Bristow to arrange with the private corporation.

Though the corporation insisted it doesn't have the money to pay anything, Mr. Gibson pushed for and got the $10,000 fee for the non-use of the downtown jail it emptied of prisoners in order to have enough revenue to meet bond debt service payments on the new 816-bed jail on Highway 6.

The resulting $60,000 raised during the 6-month period may be used to meet McLennan County's other expenses, he explained. “What people have to understand is so goes that jail, so goes the county,” said Mr. Gibson.

CEC Senior Vice President Peter Ageropulos told the Court last week that he wanted them to waive all fees for the coming six-month period. He also said that his company is on the short list for housing prisoners of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons at a rate of $45 per day.

What if that doesn't work out? Mr. Snell wanted to know.

Mr. Ageropulos waved a sheaf of legal papers at the Court, saying, “I have a contract.”

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