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Officials mull Montmorency County Jail closure

News File Photo The exterior of the Montmorency County Sheriff’s Office is shown in this February 2021 News file photo.

ATLANTA — A long-pondered jail closing may be in the works as Montmorency County commissioners consider housing the county’s inmates at the Alpena County Jail.

Montmorency County Sheriff Chad Brown said talks of closing the county’s jail are nothing new, but the recent construction of a new jail building in Alpena County make such a closure more likely. The new jail could provide not only space for Montmorency County inmates but also possible employment — and a raise — for the Montmorency County corrections staff, Brown said.

With the jail consuming almost $800,000 of the county’s budget, commissioners “have a responsibility to look out for taxpayers, and I think this is a step in the right direction,” said Bob Stacey, one of the four commissioners who voted last week to continue jail-related talks with Alpena County.

Closing the Montmorency County Jail — which typically houses about 15 inmates on a given day — and paying to house inmates in Alpena would save the county $260,000 to $275,000 per year, even after the cost of hiring one corrections officer and several extra road patrol officers to handle inmate transport, according to Brown.

Were the jail to close, the six current full-time Montmorency County corrections officers would be offered employment at the Alpena jail, retaining their years of service for salary purposes, according to Brown and confirmed by Alpena County Sheriff Steven Kieliszewski.

The officers would earn $2 per hour more in Alpena than in Montmorency County — a possibility that “made my heart feel better” about considering the closure, Brown said.

At a virtual special commissioners meeting on Wednesday, some residents expressed concern about extra inmate transportation, hardship on families wanting to visit inmates, inability to reopen the jail later, and a possible housing price increase down the line, with a corresponding increase in taxes.

The Montmorency County Jail could still be used for short-term holds and could be reopened later, Brown told the commissioners. A housing rate proposed by Alpena County would be good for three years, although the proposal has not yet been made in writing, commissioners reported.

Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to continue exploring the possibility of the closure.

Board chairman Don Edwards, who voted against continuing conversations, declined a News invitation to comment on the prospective jail closure.

Brown said he hopes to know a possible timeline for a closure after a Montmorency County Board of Commissioners meeting to be held via Zoom on Wednesday morning.

Public access to the meeting, where public comment will be heard, can be found on the county’s website at montmorencycountymichigan.us.

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