By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON —
The loss of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees at the Jefferson County Justice Center is forcing the county to look at cutting employees.
“If a budget is used to a certain revenue stream, it affects everyone,” County Board Chairman Robert White said Thursday night. “We sent out a 45-day notice to the animal shelter employees Monday.”
White said he has also received information that members of the Fraternal Order of Police Corrections and Dispatch unions have received notices.
“The best case scenario is in 30 days we get the ICE detainees back,” White said. “We would still have to lay these people off ... because we have gone two to three months without money coming in.”
The ICE detainees were pulled from the facility the first week of December, after concerns with deficiencies in medical staffing prompted the federal agency to make the move. The county still has a contract with ICE, but will have to bring the facility up to 2008 standards and pass an inspection to receive detainees again.
According to Jefferson County Sheriff Roger Mulch, the facility must have medical staff coverage, have an additional training officer, and an additional person in the control room to comply with the standards.
The county has reopened its budget to address the $3.5 million gap in revenue which was expected from the ICE detainees. At this time, the county is receiving proposals for medical services.
“We’re getting the medical bids now, but that could be as much as $375,000 or more in additional expense above what is already budgeted,” White said.
White said grievances are already being filed by some county employees, and he understands the frustration and anger expressed.
“But, the bottom line is, we have to have a balanced budget,” White said. “If we work together and deal with what we have been dealt ... we can get through what we hope is a temporary situation.”
County Board member Jim Laird asked if it would be possible to put an additional one-quarter percent public safety tax on the April ballot, as an option to deal with the shortfall and “not worry about ICE.”
“That needs to be avoided like the plague,” White said. “We’ve already put enough pressure on our sales taxes. Our focus is to get the ICE detainees back. ... If we get to the point where we permanently lose ICE, it might be something to look at. ... Right now, that’s not even an option on the radar.”
The Jefferson County Board will meet in regular session on Monday night at 7 p.m. in the board room of the Jefferson County Courthouse.