HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ - The Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders heard a Jail Consolidation Service savings report by County Sheriff Fred Brown, just under 10 months into the new shared services contract with Warren County, originally projected to achieve $250,000 in savings of taxpayer dollars over 12 months.
“There was the expectation at the time of approvalof an annual savings of $250,000 versus the former agreement Hunterdon held with Somerset County,” he said. “I can report tonight that not only is the program to house Hunterdon County’s inmates at the Warren County Correctional Center in Belvidere satisfactory, efficient and successfully implemented, but the anticipated cost savings for the full year is expected to exceed $600,000 compared to what was expended in 2019.”
The agreement with Warren, which was approved in January, calls for Hunterdon County to pay $90 per day for each inmate housed at the Warren County facility, which is the same rate as the county paid to Somerset County.
However, the past agreement with Somerset County called for payment equivalent to housing at least 50 inmates per day at Somerset County Jail. Per terms of the agreement ratified with Warren County, Hunterdon County only pays for the number of inmates housed there on any given day, and nothing more.
“The average monthly cost to maintain inmates at the Warren County Facility is now under $100,000, and is running at more than $50,000 per month less than what Hunterdon had been spending for its agreement with Somerset,” Brown said. “And one of the main reasons for switching to Warren County was the anticipation of a reduction in inmates’ medical costs for the county and medical-related security costs, due to the fact that physician-led medical and psychiatric services are available on-site at the Warren County facility.”
At Somerset County Jail, with the prior agreement, any time inmates had a medical problem or emergency requiring transport to the hospital, Hunterdon County had obligations to pay medical security costs on top of doctors’ bills. Brown said the objectives became a reality this year as the inmates’ medical costs have dropped by an average of 64 percent per month, and medical security charges are averaging 76 percent less per month following the move to Warren’s facilities.
Brown said in January that they were presently housing an average of 35 inmates daily, down from 43 the year before. Those numbers have trended even further down this year.
As of Oct. 20, Brown noted that the current average for Hunterdon daily inmates was at 31 per day, down from a 34 inmate average in both September and October 2019. Brown noted that the drop in numbers year-over-year signals that the savings noted now “don’t all have to do with the pandemic.”
“The jail consolidation shared services with Warren County are going well, as cost savings exceed expectations, and operations, including transportation, are working well,” Brown said.
Freeholder Director Shaun C. Van Doren praised the change.
“The fact that the jail consolidation with Warren is paying even more dividends than first anticipated is an additional value to all taxpayers,” he said. “This kind of exceptional work done by the county’s constitutional officers and departmental directors to consistently seek out and implement operations that are effective and efficient is the reason the county has kept its fiscal house in order.”
Brown noted that COVID-19 infection and rate of transmission “has not been an issue” at the Warren County Correctional Center during the pandemic, and he thanked the leadership and staff affiliated with that facility for their diligence in protecting people and taking precautions.
Freeholder John Lanza offered some comments on the agreement with Warren County “resulting in lower costs.” He said, almost five years after the choice to combine county jail services with Somerset County, the cost savings achieved make the freeholders' decision look like a “no-brainer.”
“Only through careful and thorough analysis and understanding the benefits, not the least of which was avoiding $5 million in capital costs needed to update the county jail, was that decision made in 2016,” he said. “It was the correct move for the county then, saving millions in tax dollars over the years. Now, the decision at the beginning of this year to establish a similar shared service with Warren County has again proven to be a real value to taxpayers.”