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County commission approves body scanner at Hill County jail

The Hill County Commission approved the purchase of a new body scanner for the Hill County Detention Center and renewed a contract for meals for inmates at their weekly business meeting Thursday.

Hill County Sheriff Jamie Ross has said the body scanner would prevent contraband from entering the facility and increase the safety of everyone there.

In Thursday’s meeting Ross said the original quote for the machine was $164,000 but the price of maintenance has since gone down a bit.

Ross recommended the commission raise the standard three-year warranty to five years which would put the price around $179,000, excluding some electrical work they would need to do before installation.

He said they just don’t have the resources to repair and maintain the machine locally, and, without consistent maintenance, it would become useless.

“If there's no warranty or maintenance that goes with it, it turns into a clothes hanger,” he said.

Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson said the commission has consulted with other counties and they’ve heard nothing but good about these scanners and their positive effects on facility safety.

Commissioner Jake Strissel said, between liability and safety, just one prevented incident could potentially pay for the device, so it’s a good investment for the county.

The commission voted unanimously to purchase the scanner using CARES Act funds and Ross thanked them for the support.

The commission also voted to renew a contract with Summit Food Services, which provides meals to prisoners, despite a substantial recent increase in the cost of meals per inmate, an increase of nearly 25 percent.

Peterson said this is huge jump, but after looking into the matter it doesn’t appear the commission has the time to consider any other option for this year.

Strissel said they looked into the possibility of getting meals through a nearby Montana State Prison, which supplies meals to other jails in the area, but the county would need to hire a nutritionist to oversee that operation and they don’t have time to do that.

“Unfortunately, our hands are tied with this,” he said.

Peterson said they will get started earlier next year to consider alternatives.

The commission also announced that after paying for the rebuilding of the RSID 21 Lift Station, they had $28,000 in leftover allocated funds, which they intend to put toward maintaining the facility.

At the end of the meeting Peterson said there is an item they forgot to put on the agenda, a discussion with Great West Engineering about the possibility of setting up a capital improvement plan, which they would have after the business meeting.

See more on the capital improvement plan discussion in a future edition of the Havre Daily News.


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