Oklahoma County Treasurer concerned about increasing cost of running jail after Jail Trust transition

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OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahoma County Treasurer Butch Freeman says he’s worried the cost of the running the jail will go up once it has transitioned from the Sheriff’s Office to the Jail Trust.

He says that doesn’t mean it won’t be a smooth transition, just that there are still a lot of unknowns.

“No one knows for sure, but I think there are a lot of us who feel there’s a lot of things that have to be done and done absolutely correctly to keep that from being more expensive than what it currently is,” Freeman said.

The current budget for the jail is $30 million, but it’s not clear how much more it will cost to operate the jail once the trust takes over. There’s already been a big expense for the county: $550,000 for administrative costs.

“If it’s coming from the same pot of money, every time we give a dollar over to the Justice Authority [Jail Trust] then we’re taking a dollar from somewhere else,” Freeman said.

Another potential cost is $1.2 million to buy back leave time from jail employees who have to be rehired by the trust.

“The transition’s going to take longer as we work through all those costs,” Tricia Everest, chair of the Jail Trust, said.

On Tuesday the Sheriff said he’s giving a 106-day extension to move law enforcement operations to another building and turn over operations to the Jail Trust.

Something the Jail Trust would be able to do is collect debt, whereas the County can’t.

“We can collect debt. So if we wanted to build a building, it’d be like we have a mortgage,” Everest said.

Freeman says debt could be another expense.

“They borrow X amount of dollars to run the operation of the jail. How do you pay that debt? You have to come back to the county. It’s a circular argument there,” he said.

He says taxpayers are not going to feel a burden.

“They are not impacted by at this time by this,” he said.

Mark Myers with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office says they’ve been warning about the cost of the transition from the very beginning.

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