Bent County Commissioners met March 13 with Bent County Sheriff Dave Encinias and Bent County Sheriff's Department Administrative Staff member Brad Jones.

Bent County Commissioners met March 13 with Bent County Sheriff Dave Encinias and Bent County Sheriff's Department Administrative Staff member Brad Jones.

In dealing with departmental finances, Encinias presented commissioners revenue totals for the month of February, in addition to year-to-date totals for 2013 and current inmate counts.

According to department records, Bent County is currently housing 26 inmates, including 10 Bent County inmates and 16 inmates stemming from other county departments. Revenues for the month of February total $21,362.32 and $42,822.69 in 2013.

While most figures stemming from monthly revenues satisfied commissioners, questions arose when referencing inmate contracts with surrounding counties and staffing patterns.

Commissioner Bill Long questioned the department's monthly billings related to out-of-county inmates and the need for a consistent collection method for billing. In January, out of county inmate contracts totaled $16,997.00 and in February $18,153.80.

According to Jones, counties are billed monthly for inmate services, though revenues are not always collected until the following month, which explains continued differences in collection amounts.

Commissioners asked the department for a total amount billed for each month, rather than a report showing collection amounts, to which the department agreed.

"From a financial perspective, this isn't working," said Long. "It has to make financial sense to the county and to our taxpayers. We need to know exactly what is being billed each month because if we don't keep accurate records and come up $200,000 short at the end of the year, we have big problems.

"We continue to have financial issues and there is no more money coming in," continued Long. "We've had good years in the past, but this isn't one of them. We have to keep control of our expenditures. We are faced with another year of zero revenues and we are looking at $40-50,000 of added healthcare costs. It's not pretty, not at all. There are big problems that haven't even hit us yet and it could snowball bad this year. We are in the third year of a drought and we are not going to be in for a good year if there is no change."

In addition to needed changes in billing records for the Sheriff's Department, commissioners also addressed issues with food cost billings from Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) from Bent County Correctional Facility, who provides inmate meals daily. According the commissioners, Bent County has received bills for more inmates than are housed in Bent County jails.

"We want that to be monitored," said Long. "The numbers need to be closer. There may be a good explanation for it all, but either way, we need to understand."

In response, Encinias and Jones advised commissioners that only recently has the Sheriff's Office received the billings from CCA, and the department plans to more closely monitor billings in relation to inmate count.

Lastly, commissioners asked about high turnover rated at the department over an extended period of time. According to Encinias, who did not go into detail, the department is having "issues with concern for liability and criminal activity."

In the February report, Encinias reported that Detention Deputy Manuel Canto has resigned his position and Deputy Jackie Manley is no longer with the department.

In addition to the Sheriff's report, commissioners also heard from Bent County Department of Social Services Director Bill Schultz.

In his report, Schultz showed a decrease in Child Support collections for the month of January, which is down to $47,627.56, compared to $65,888.69 in 2012. According to Schultz, the decrease in revenues may be reflective of the number of children who have aged out.

Currently, 439 people are receiving food assistance, compared to 429 in January and 413 in December 2012. 303 homes have been approved for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), 143 for Employment First, 120 for Workforce Development, and 15 for Child Protective Programs.

Additionally, commissioners approved the minutes from their Feb. 27 meeting and approved bill and payroll.

The next meeting of the Bent County Board of Commissioners will be March 27 at 9 a.m. The meeting is open to the public.