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Money to Staff New Jail Could be Taxing for Cumberland County

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FAYETTEVILLE — While most Cumberland County departments are being forced to cut back costs, one department is looking for more than $2 million to expand.

Cumberland County's new jail will cost $39 million to build. When it is finished, the sheriff's office will need another $2.4 million to staff it. With a rash of prison breakouts making headlines, Sheriff Moose Butler says every position needs to be filled.

"Each one comes back to understaffing," says Butler. "We cannot and will not go into this facility without proper staffing for safety purposes of those working there and incarcerated there."

Monday, county commissioners approved hiring four employees to start the transition and training. The department needs a total of 90 new people. Most of the openings are for detention officers.

County Commission Chairman Lee Warren and many others do not doubt the need. Right now, nearly 400 inmates are in the old jail which is designed to hold 288 inmates.

In a county that is in a constant cost-cutting mode, funding the extra staff is a huge concern.

"We will work diligently to find every cost saving we can. We are looking at the General Assembly passign a one-cent sales tax that could mean anywhere from $16 to 20 million per year for Cumberland County." says Warren.

The jail needs a larger staff due to its design. In most jails, there are several inmates in a cell. In the new jail, officers will sit in the middle of a pod where each prisoner is in an individual cell.

"Now we are in there, in the housing units with the inmates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So we are in absolute control at all times," says Maj. Dan Ford, chief jailer.

Staffing this jail is just one new expense for the county. It also has open two new schools. They say that one-cent sales tax is an absolute must.

The new jail is expected to open by January 2002.