BROOKSVILLE — Offering Corrections Corporation of America a history lesson on its contract to run the county jail, Hernando County purchasing director Jim Gantt has refused a demand for immediate payment of $422,000 he withheld earlier this year.
Gantt is also pushing for the company to forgo the 4 percent annual raise built into the contract.
The CCA contract to operate the jail earns a lot of attention from county officials because it is such a big chunk of the county's general fund budget.
The contract will cost taxpayers $13.29 million this year, minus the $1.47 million in revenue the jail produces for the county.
When Gantt withheld the $422,000 from CCA's April billing, the firm responded by suggesting that Hernando could be in default of its contract.
Gantt countered last week, explaining that the county is following the contract and that CCA had not properly calculated what it owed the county for revenue generated from the 104 permanent inmate beds added to the jail in 2007 with county permission.
"The county regrets that in order to protect its interest, the extraordinary approach of withholding the funds was necessary,'' Gantt wrote. "However, the amendment (related to the new beds) noted had been in place for 20 months, and the revenue share due the county had not been paid as stipulated in any semblance.''
Gantt goes on to tell CCA officials that their formula for calculating what the county is owed is not accurate and their officials' interpretations of new bed contract language are "simply not supported by the written record.''
He also reminded the company of how the 104 beds came to be added to the facility and how the county and CCA officials at the time agreed to compensate the county with 30 percent of the revenue those beds generate.
Gantt said the county is owed 30 percent of the revenue generated since October 2007 for both in-county and out-of-county inmates using those 104 new beds.
"As stated before, the county waited over 20 months for reimbursement from CCA before taking this action,'' Gantt wrote. "During this time, the county has continually asked for, inquired about and pursued payment for the expanded capacity beds. … We have continually been ignored.''
Gantt is still awaiting a response.
A separate batch of correspondence relates to the county asking CCA to forgo the 4 percent annual increase allowed in the contract for the amount the county pays for each inmate per day. Currently that cost is $57.18.
Last week Gantt received correspondence from CCA noting that the firm "appreciates and understands the financial difficulties being experienced by Hernando County and hope you will understand that we as a company are not immune from the affects of the current economic downturn.''
CCA senior director of business development Tommy Alsup goes on to say that the firm would like to sit down with county leaders to discuss how to change the contract or services so both sides can save some money.
But Gantt's response puts the ball back in CCA's court.
He states that the CCA letter doesn't respond to the request to forgo the increase and asks for alternatives in writing and a listing of who from CCA would come to a meeting
Once he receives that, Gantt wrote, "the county will further consider your request.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.