District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said after a three-hour meeting with state officials Wednesday she is hopeful for a resolution about jail payments to Somerset County, but was not certain there will be one.

“I’m not confident either way. I’m not confident that they will; I’m not confident that they wont,” Maloney said. “We are very much in a place where we are continuing the discussion, which is good because what I didn’t want is to see us close doors at this point.”

At stake is about $280,000 Somerset County commissioners say is owed as the state’s third-quarter payment for jail operations.

The Board of Corrections voted in March to withhold payment because the county is using revenue from the boarding of federal prisoners partly to pay down the debt on construction of the jail.

Meanwhile, Somerset County Sheriff Barry DeLong has 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.

“We have some proposals, some potential resolutions on the table,” Maloney said. “Those we will bring to the sheriff and the county commissioners; and the resolutions they brought to the table, they’ll be bringing to the BOC.”

Any compromise will be up to the Board of Corrections and Somerset County commissioners, she said.

Somerset County attorney Lee Bragg, who also was at the meeting Wednesday, said if Somerset County commissioners remain dissatisfied with the Board of Corrections’ decision, they can seek a court interpretation of the law.

Michael Tausek, executive director of the state Board of Corrections, said earlier this week that the payment has not been denied but is on hold until the legal discussions are completed.

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

Participants in Wednesday’s meeting were Maloney, Bragg, Tausek and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Black.

Tausek did not return calls for comment after the meeting.

Bragg said, like Maloney, said he wasn’t confident of a quick negotiated resolution to the problem.

“I think we fought to a draw,” Bragg said of the meeting. “There wasn’t any significant movement on either side. I think it’s hard for people on both sides to see a middle ground or a compromise.”

The Board of Corrections vote not to pay Somerset County came in response to a resolution passed by Somerset County commissioners in January to use all revenue from the boarding of federal inmates for operations and debt service at the county jail and not share the money with the state.

The board believes the federal money is surplus and could be used to pay the cost of inmates from other counties in Maine to save the state money.

County commissioners have said the contract with the federal government has nothing to do with the state of Maine.

Bragg said the issue will be discussed again April 23 at the next regular monthly meeting of the Board of Corrections.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]


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