By James Cook, Times Editor
The fallout from the surprise shakedown of the Powell County Detention Center and the subsequent failure of 54 percent of state inmates during a drug test continues two weeks after the search. Within days of the failed drug testing, 15 state inmates were removed from the jail. That move may cost the county nearly $185,000 in revenue a year for the jail.
Following the search and prior to the removal of state inmates from the facility, the Kentucky Department of Corrections made several suggestions and recommendations for the county and the new jailer, Melvin Rogers. It appears that the recommendations have not fallen on deaf ears.
“The DOC suggests a better structuring of a command staff and he (Rogers) is doing that,” Powell County Judge Executive Darren Farmer said in an interview last Friday. “I have spoken with Melvin and he knows what has to be done. He is in the process now of doing it.”
Effective last week the jail has a new chief deputy and a new lieutenant. John Tharpe, who was a dispatcher for the county’s 911 Center, has been transferred to the jail as the new chief deputy. He fills the position of Dallas Clark, the former chief deputy who was dismissed weeks prior to the search and failed drug testing. Jail or county officials due to possible litigation in the future have not addressed Clark’s dismissal publicly.
Clay City Fire Chief and deputy jailer Richard Rogers has been promoted to lieutenant. Larry Hall, a deputy sheriff and dispatcher had held that post temporarily for the past month. Hall has since gone back to his other duties. “It was set up for me to do that on a trial basis and now I’m back doing my other jobs,” Hall said. “I just wanted to help where I could and now they have people in place so I can go back to my duties.”
“We are following the recommendations of the DOC and I believe that John will be an asset to the jail,” Farmer said. “His supervisor experience with the businesses he has run will be helpful.
“We are trying to do the right things and work hard on tis situation,” Powell County Jailer Melvin Rogers said. “The state has not taken any more inmates, but they haven’t brought us any either. We’ll know more later this week about how it is going.”
The jail remains under a 60-day lock down status. No inmate is allowed to leave the facility for wrok release, trustee or community service duties. There are two exceptions, according to jail officials. Both have court orders allowing them to leave the jail to attend classes.
“We know the loss of the state inmates hurts our budget for the jail. I will be talking to the state financial officers about our budget and this situation soon,” Farmer said. “We just want to get a handle on the situation and make things work. We can do that and I know Melvin is working hard to reach that goal too.”