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On the Job

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From the halls of the detention center . . .

By Bryan Marshall

Terry Peeples spent three years as a deputy jailer and shift commander at the Grant County Detention Center.

But, when he walked into the jail Jan. 3, he was in charge and armed with countless ideas for improvements.

Peeples defeated former jailer Steve Kellam in the May 2010 primary election before besting Republican challenger Harvey Perleberg in the November general election.

“It was exciting to be back,” Peeples said. “I was glad to be back. It felt good. I know I’ve got a good, competent team behind me. I know that we’ve worked together well in the past and we’ll work together well in the future. I’m confident that we have a bright future.”

Like many county jails, Peeples faces a budget crunch that he hopes to remedy by increasing revenue and cutting back on some expenditures.

Near the top of his priority list is to try to regain federal prisoners to the jail in order to bring in more funds.

Peeples said he hoped to sit down with Judge-Executive Darrell Link and the head U.S. Marshal of Kentucky to discuss the issue.

“I am aware that Kenton, Boone and Campbell counties have newer facilities and they house federal inmates,” Peeples said.

“It was my opponent’s opinion that we would not get the feds back for that reason. I think it’s a 50-50 chance we get them back because the service we provided the marshals, especially in our transportation, was so good and so technically proficient. We provided service other jails could not, therefore, I think when it comes time to get the feds back, they will realize that and give us the opportunity to prove ourselves.”

Two cost-saving measures Peeples is investigating is starting an in-house kitchen service and switching medical providers.

Currently, the jail is paying nearly $380,000 for food annually, he said.

“I believe right now we pay $1 to $1.15 per meal, per day, per inmate,” Peeples said. “If we had 300 inmates, we’re paying $900 a day in meals.”

Peeples said that the estimated cost per meal would decrease to an average of 70 cents per meals if ran by inmate labor with deputy supervision.

The detention center also is paying about $400,000 annually for medical services.

“We only get medical coverage 12 hours a day, which is concerning because it’s the 12 hours when nobody is here at nights where we’re usually going to have a major problem,” Peeples said. “I spoke to a company, who at this time wishes to remain unnamed, who believes they could come in here and provide 24-hour coverage and eliminate one-third of the price.”

In the candidate forum sponsored by the Grant County News and Grant County Chamber of Commerce, Peeples said he would like to look at hiring more part-time employees to save money in the budget.

That is an idea that is still very much on the table, said Peeples.

“I’m not saying that I’m going to start replacing people with part-time help because I’m not,” he said. “I believe they are a great benefit to add to the structure you have because you don’t pay benefits, retirement. It gives you a chance to watch them work, evaluate them and see if they’re suitable for this line of work.”

“I’m not going to get rid of anybody,” Peeples added. “I don’t have an axe to grind with anybody. But, as our people decide to leave, and eventually they will through retirement or whatever the reason, we will replace them with temporary/part-time help. I’m going to try to add part-time help to assist them in making their job better and easier at a minimal cost.”

Peeples said he also is in preliminary negotiations with the Grant County Sheriff’s Department about charging rent for use of part of the jail’s building for their office.

The move is not something he wants to do, but Peeples said tough economic times make it necessary.

Additional changes Peeples said he would like to put into effect include adding a home incarceration program, increasing the community presence of the work release program, restructuring shifts so a lieutenant is working during every shift and expanded the jail’s Substance Abuse Program from 40 to 80 inmates.

Peeples also said he would like to expand training beyond the 16 required hours to include classes on CPR, crime scenes, policies and procedures and personnel management.

During a tour of the detention center, a laundry list of building and maintenance issues were pointed out that need to be addressed.

Among the problems are malfunctioning heating in half of the X block housing female inmates, only one working washer and dryer, a shortage of uniforms, linens and bed pads, leaky roofs, non-working kitchen warmer, faulty showers and faucets, safety issues involving flooring in the control room, lack of radios for deputies, non-working vehicles or vehicles that need repairs, maintenance equipment in disrepair and faulty security gate.

“We have to prioritize,” Peeples said about the issues. “I think the washer and dryer is probably our number one concern right now. I think our second priority will be our roof and our heating and air units. That’s our biggest expenses though. You’re looking at a lot of money to fix those two problems. We have a lot of smaller problems that we need to address, like our vehicles.”

Captain Gary Courtney and Peeples are planning to set up a preventative maintenance checks and service system that involves weekly inspection of vehicles, along with a building maintenance schedule.

The question still remains, however, where will the money come from for repairs and improvements?

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Peeples. “Mrs. (Jackie) Bodenhammer will work the grant end as hard as she can to try to come up with grant money. We will try to cut our expenditures as much as we can to try to free up some additional funds. We’re going to ask the judge for money, but we’re going to have to show him how it’s going to benefit the county over the long run.”

Link said that he has asked Peeples to take a comprehensive inventory of the jail’s needs and to prioritize the areas that need attention first. After the assessment is complete, Link said he will look into funding the needs.

While running for jailer, Peeples toured other detention facilities in Kentucky.

What he saw, made him realize that the Grant County Detention Center is not in that bad of shape at all.

“We’ve got problems, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not as big as some of the other facilities,” Peeples said. “We are structurally sound as far as policies and procedures. We might tweak them a bit to fit the direction I want to go. I think we have a good staff and good deputies. We have to work on our image and our reputation. We have to do that by changing our knowledge, our discipline and our accountability. The big things we do great. It’s the little attention to details that will get you. That’s what we don’t do very well.”


JAIL REFINANCING SAVES TAXPAYER'S MORE THAN $500,000

Good finance management recently led to savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Grant County Detention Center, said Judge-Executive Darrell Link.

The county refinanced the jail debt in September 2010 after Peggy Updike, county treasurer, recognized that interest rates were lower and refinancing the debt without extension would save taxpayer’s as much as $400,000 over the lifetime of the loan.

“Upon the day of the sale, we actually saved the taxpayers $542,684.1,” Link said. “The bottom line is saving taxpayers money and providing for a better bottom line to our financial position, which resulted in an “A+” rating from Standard and Poor.”