Wayne County will spend extra money on health care for people in the Wayne County jail.

Council approved 5-2 during the April 19 council/commissioners workshop to pay an additional $206,776 for increased health care staffing. Council members Tony Gillam and Bob Chamness voted against the additional expenditure.

Quality Correctional Care had already been selected to continue serving inmates this year with a $606,266 bid. QCC also included the alternative with increased staffing. It will receive a three-year contract.

Sheriff Randy Retter said the extra staffing will enable nurses to spend more time with inmates to improve on-site care. That will, he hopes, reduce the need for off-site medical care that creates additional expenses for the care and increased costs for guard overtime.

Retter also said that staffing level is necessary for the jail’s health care program to retain accreditation. That helps the jail avoid liability issues when challenged by inmates.

Retter tentatively committed $100,000 from open positions toward the extra 2023 cost, but said the county would need to cover that amount during the contract’s additional years.

Gillam said he disagreed with adding the expenditure outside of the budget process. He said it’s not an emergency and the only fair method is to consider the increase during the 2024 budgeting process along with other departments’ budget requests.

Council member Max Smith said the county had no choice but to provide the extra inmate care.

“We have to do this,” he said.

Council delayed deciding how to cover the extra cost until the $615,000 budgeted and Retter’s additional $100,000 are spent down.

Fairgrounds projects

During the evening workshop, council approved $527,000 in funding, which includes about a 10% contingency, for a new First Bank Expo Hall HVAC system.

Commissioners during their morning meeting awarded the bid to Bader Mechanical. Bader bid $473,058.11, plus $7,516 to have ductwork that is white to match the building’s ceiling.

Council delayed deciding where in the budget to find the money, waiting until the expected fall project completion.

Also for the Wayne County Fairgrounds, council approved funding for a $10,640 quote to repair storm damage. A light fell and two poles were damaged during a recent wind storm. The county expects to receive a $5,640 insurance reimbursement after the $5,000 deductible.

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Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.