SKOWHEGAN — State and county officials are set to meet Wednesday about a recurring dispute, this time involving about $280,000, between the Board of Corrections and Somerset County.

The Board of Corrections voted in March to withhold Somerset County Jail’s third-quarter payment of about $280,000 because the county is using revenues from the boarding of federal prisoners, in part, to pay down the debt on construction of the new jail.

In response, Somerset County Sheriff Barry DeLong stopped accepting out-of-county inmates, even though the jail is one of four flagship county jails statewide created under the 2008 jail consolidation act.

The Board of Corrections believes the federal money should be going to the state. The sheriff and the five-member board of Somerset County commissioners insist the county’s contract with the federal government has nothing to do with the state.

The meeting of District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, county attorney Lee Bragg, executive director of the state Board of Corrections Michael Tausek and a lawyer from the Maine Attorney General’s Office is set for 3 p.m. Wednesday.

DeLong closed the Somerset County Jail to out-of-county inmates for four months last year during a similar dispute over payments with the Board of Corrections.

An agreement finally was reached in August providing $1.12 million annually to Somerset County for use of available beds through the state board’s investment fund.

The deal reimbursed the county about $281,400 in an unpaid quarterly payment from 2011.

The $1.12 million is the annual amount Somerset County is supposed to receive from the Board of Corrections under the 2008 jail consolidation act.

Tausek said Wednesday’s meeting will be to discuss the legal aspects of Somerset County’s use of the federal money to pay down its jail construction debt and whether the Board of Corrections is entitled to treat that money as state money.

In the meantime, he said, there will be no third-quarter payment.

“It hasn’t been denied, it’s been put on hold until discussions can be had between the two parties,” Tausek said Tuesday. “I have no side in this. I just want what’s best for the system and what is legally correct.”

He said Assistant Attorney General Andrew Black will be assisting him during the meeting.

DeLong said Tuesday he will not house inmates from Franklin, Aroostook, Kennebec or other counties in Maine without being paid the going rate of $22.50 per day per inmate, paid quarterly. Tausek said the third-quarter payment is “delayed” pending review by all the lawyers.

DeLong said he will keep existing inmates from other counties as a courtesy, but will take no more inmates until the matter is settled.

“They had a meeting and the Board of Corrections paid 15 counties the money they owed them and Somerset is the only one they did not pay,” DeLong said. “It’s over the federal board money that we’ve earned. I see no reason why I should house on average 50 inmates that don’t belong to Somerset County. Why should Somerset bear that cost and take them for free?”

DeLong said he thinks the Board of Corrections “should go away” and let the counties run their own jails as they did before the 2008 jail consolidation act merged all correctional facilities under one board and one budget.

“I don’t need their money and I don’t need their inmates,” he said.

There are 15 jails in Maine under the 2008 consolidation law enacted by the Legislature. Four of them are considered “flagship” jails, or receiving jails, which are large, modern jails that can take inmates from other counties in Maine.

The flagship jails are Somerset County Jail in East Madison, Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, York County Jail in Alfred, and Cumberland County Jail in Portland.

Somerset County attorney Lee Bragg said a resolution passed by Somerset County commissioners in January set the stage for the Board of Corrections’ vote to withhold Somerset’s third-quarter payment.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Jan. 3 to use all revenues from the boarding of federal inmates for operations and debt service at the county jail and not share the money with the state.

The commissioners’ vote came in response to the Board of Corrections saying the federal money was surplus and could be used to pay the cost of inmates from other counties in Maine to save the state money.

Of the $93 paid daily for each federal inmate, $22 will be used to offset the costs of running the jail; $18 will go to a building capital reserve fund; and $53 will be used for debt service on the construction of the jail.

Rep. Jeff McCabe, meanwhile, is co-sponsoring a bill to allocate money from the state’s General Fund to help pay the debt on the state’s jails, including the Somerset County Jail.

The bill, initiated by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, would send $4.6 million in the coming fiscal year and $4.8 million in the next one to the state Board of Corrections for service on jail debt statewide. The money, according to McCabe, a Skowhegan Democrat, represents projected debt payments on county jail construction statewide for the next two years.

Somerset County borrowed $30 million to build the county jail in East Madison in 2008. The annual service on the debt is about $2.55 million. The bond is to be paid off over 20 years.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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