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Kandiyohi County jail could take a big financial hit

In an abrupt change that could mean the loss of $450,000 to $850,000 in revenue, the county jail, which is operated from within the law enforcement center will no longer house state convicts. The county was paid $50 a day by the state to house up to 60 inmates from overcrowded prisons. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County jail is no longer housing state convicts.

Inmates were moved out of leased cells in the Kandiyohi County Jail in December. The abrupt change could mean the loss of $450,000 to $850,000 in revenue to the county.

In the past year, eight county corrections officers were laid off because of the reduced jail population, including three officers this month.

It's possible more layoffs will be necessary in the future.

"We deal with challenges like this all the time," County Administrator Larry Kleindl said, expressing frustration but little surprise with yet another financial blow.

Kandiyohi County has boarded prisoners from the state Department of Corrections since 2003.

Most years the monthly population of state prisoners ranged from 45 to 60 inmates. The state paid the county $50 a day per prisoner.

The arrangement generated about $821,000 in revenue to the county last year

Kleindl said there was always a risk the prisoners and the revenue would go away because the county wasn't guaranteed a certain number of state prisoners,

Sheriff Dan Hartog said there's been a reduction in state prisoners and they can all be housed in state prisons.

Kleindl said the state began a gradual reduction of prisoners from the county jail this fall but gave no indication the pull out would be complete until November, when the process was accelerated.

By that time it was too late to change the county budget.

When the 2011 county budget was approved, the county estimated on the low end of 25 to 30 prisoners and revenue of $456,000.

Unless things change, the revenue for 2011 will be zero.

This isn't the first time the state has pulled prisoners from the county jail and then returned them. Kleindl said there's the possibility the state will lease jail space from the county in the future.

On the bright side, Kleindl said past revenue from the contract has been good for the county and helped make payments on its law enforcement center. He also said the reduced need for county jails means there are fewer state prisoners overflowing prisons.

Hartog said there's been a reduction in the number of county inmates as well. At one time there were as many as 110 county inmates. This week there were 57.