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Sheriff's department getting state, federal boost

ELIZABETHTOWN - The Essex County Sheriff's department is getting some significant assistance from the state and federal government.

At the Essex County Public Safety committee meeting Oct. 13, Sheriff Henry Hommes asked for the approval of several grants recently awarded to his department.

The first grant would provide the department with $24,000 over the next two years toward the purchase of new bulletproof vests.

"This is a state grant, and it pays half of the purchase price of the vests," said Hommes, noting Essex County gets one of the highest allotments in the state for the grant.

Further state funding has also been awarded, he said, through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. Essex County received $1,703 for housing in its jail foreign nationals who were awaiting sentencing this year.

$188,080 in federal stimulus money has been awarded to the Sheriff's department through a Rural Drug Enforcement Assistance grant. Hommes said the money will fund an additional deputy for the department, along with a new vehicle and equipment.

The RDEA grant stipulates that the money be used primarily for drug enforcement, but Hommes said the additional deputy would perform other duties as well.

Hommes also gave an update on revenue the county has gained from its contract with the U.S. Marshall service to house federal inmates awaiting trial or sentencing.

"As of Sept. 30, we have received $1,017,070 for boarding [federal] inmates in our jail for the year," stated Hommes. "I think that's a pretty good figure."

Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow agreed, saying the money should offset the $1.5 million bond the county was issued to help fund construction of the new jail.

Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava argued that it costs the county $3.7 million a year in operating costs for the jail because all of the extra inmates. Essex Supervisor Ron Jackson said those costs are fixed because of state mandates.

"The only way I could see that number dropping is if we went below 30 inmates," said Hommes, noting the county has also saved money with the new jail by no longer boarding its own inmates in other jails.

According to Hommes, the county receives $98 for each federal inmate per day and spends about $8 per day to provide food and linens for each one. Of the 66 inmates currently in the jail, 35 are federal boarders.

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