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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Commissioner Heimel: No Plan To Close Potter County Jail

Very rarely do I mention "official county business" here, but for the record there is no plan afoot to close the Potter County Jail. In a nutshell, McKean County approached Potter about two years ago with an offer to house our male inmates. From a purely economic standpoint, the proposal was worth investigating because operation of our own jail has skyrocketed to a cost of about $1.4 million annually.
State mandates and operating standards are increasing and it is only because our jail is "grandfathered" that we do not have to incur considerably more expense. (A separate argument is whether we should be doing more because it's inherently the right thing to do, whether state-mandated or not).

After exhaustive research and pro/con assessments, as well as candid discussions with many who would be affected and many other measures taken to analyze this matter, as one member of a three-member Board of Commissioners I have concluded that we should decline McKean County's offer and continue to operate our own jail.
An economic case could still be made to close it, but the savings would not be as significant as some people have suggested and there would be other "costs" to pay, including compromises in public safety.


The economic argument may be more compelling if we are able to reduce the number of defendants who must be incarcerated, which is something Judges Minor and Leete as well as DA Watson and many other dedicated public officials have been working on for more than two years.


A very disturbing increase in opiod addiction (including heroin) and its ripple effect on related crime has frustrated this mission to reduce the inmate count. Other factors have also come into play that continue to challenge our team.


Our court system is doing a great job of adapting to changing times and the statewide and national recognition -- Potter County has been a successful pilot model for other rural jurisdictions -- is well-deserved. The overwhelming majority of those successfully completing the DUI Court, Drug Court and Women's Recovery Center programs are doing very well as "productive members of society" (or whatever the buzzwords are these days.) There is also great hope for success of the newest program, a Pre-Trial Diversion initiative that's just now being launched.


I will stop here, but would be eager to share details with anyone who is interested in learning more. I just wanted to put the rumors and concerns to rest from my own perspective as one of three elected officials who have the ultimate say in the future of our county jail. Thank you.

13 comments :

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying. I heard buzz about this and was wondering if it was really true. I know this is only one of three commissioners' but I assume it's solid information.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Women's Recovery Center in Harrison Valley was closed because after all the money put into it,they only had 1 inmate.

Anonymous said...

The Women's Recovery Center it is still open and they have more than one woman. It is operated by Northern Tier now instead of the county but the court is still sending women there.

Anonymous said...

--closing the jail is sooooooooo dumb cannot believe the commissioners would even consider this. Why would we give McKean county so much money.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Paul

why would we want another abandoned building in Coudersport??

Anonymous said...

County stopped funding that facility recently because it was a waste of taxpayers money.Why Northern Tier Childrens Home would fund it now is beyond me.

Paying all that for now 2 residents is not logical.

Anonymous said...

An economic case could still be made to close it, but the savings would not be as significant as some people have suggested and there would be other "costs" to pay, including compromises in public safety.

I would love to know how housing inmates in McKean county would compromise public safety in Potter county?

If it costs less in McKean County then I say move the inmates as soon as possible!!!

Anonymous said...

Tax payers still paying for center. I don't think NTCH would lose money. If only two how is this saving. Big building for two people.

Anonymous said...

How in the h^ll does it cost 1.4 million dollars to run the small jail ? Thats almost $117,000.00 per month what could possibly cost that much money in that little jail ? Please someone investigate this ASAP !

Anonymous said...

Closing the jail would pose a safety issue. If the state and town police have to leave the county to transport inmates to McKean County police would not be available to respond to a crime or accident.

Anonymous said...

The Public Safety argument makes no sense whatsoever.

Other than that, even if there is a savings now, giving up control of the building and Grandfathered benefits may not be such a good idea. Costs to house outside Potter County could easily increase in the future.

There are other costs likely not computed when comparing savings as well, such as the cost to transport inmates to and from court, the costs for family to visit their relatives outside the county, the loss of local revenue for those who work at the jail.

Anonymous said...

Especially if mckean county would not except them due to illness or being to drunk or injured. Then the transport officer would have to spend more time and bradford hospital

Anonymous said...

Believe me the family time to travel to and from the jail is the last of my worries!!!