STRYKER — A large amount of CARES Relief Act funds will be coming to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio (CCNO) near here to help reduce operating costs.
The regional jail’s governing board approved a related motion during a special meeting Wednesday morning held via Zoom technology, accepting $2,295,000 in CARES money from the five CCNO partner counties (Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Lucas and Williams). The majority ($2,095,000) is coming from Lucas County while the remaining four counties contributed $50,000 each.
The money will be used through Dec. 31 — the deadline for using the cash — to cover wages and benefits of CCNO corrections officers. The money can be used for this purpose, according to officials, because CCNO is considered to be in the front lines of the coronavirus situation.
But the board stopped short of approving a second motion that would have reduced each CCNO partner’s per diem cost for 2021 — based on the CARES Act money. The per diem represents the daily inmate bed rate that each CCNO member is charged.
CCNO’s plan is to bank the money it will not need for wages and benefits in the remaining weeks of 2020 because of the CARES money. This money will help bolster the jail’s reserves, thus allowing the per diem cut in the future.
However, Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken noted that this might draw the attention and concern of state auditors later.
“I’m not sure I’m right, but auditors are really going to be tight on this,” he said. “... I think it could be a little interesting to some people that you turn around and immediately adjust 2021 rates on recompensation for expenses in 2020. I have some concerns on that.”
CCNO Executive Director Dennis Sullivan said February is when the facility’s fiscal manager normally finalizes numbers for the end of the previous year, so he did not object to the delay on the per diem reduction. Others agreed, and the matter was shelved for now.
Too, Sullivan told the board that eight CCNO staff members have tested positive for coronavirus since late October while four are still off and two are awaiting test results.
“We have no idea how much we’re going to be using for (that) this year,” he said, adding that “I think that kind of justifies” waiting.
The 2021 budget that the board approved last month had proposed a per diem of $71.85 for each member county, but with the additional money taken into account, the figure could be dropped to approximately $56.93 next year, according to CCNO officials.
Also Wednesday, Sullivan voiced his concerns about a state quarantine policy that is causing issues at CCNO.
The policy requires that inmates headed from the jail to a state prison be quarantined for 14 days and be given a coronavirus test on the seventh day. He said the process is repeated once those inmates get to prison.
With CCNO set up mostly with dormitories, this presents challenges to provide the requisite space while serving the remainder of the jail’s needs, Sullivan indicated. He added that the measures exceed “excessively” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
“They (state officials) don’t quite understand each facility is built differently,” Sullivan told the board.
Sympathizing with Sullivan’s position, Gerken said a potential suit in Cuyahoga County is brewing among officials with the same concern.