By Bonnie Davidson
The Courier 

Three Years Later, Jail Gets A New Cooler


Bonnie Davidson / The Courier

Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier shows the county jail's new cooler, which sits closer than the old one to where food deliveries come in and is on the same level as the jail kitchen. Part of the new cooler was paid for from funds raised by commissary purchases.

The three-year anniversary to the construction of the new jail is coming up in March. The project took months to finish and cost thousands of dollars. Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier explained that they've seen success.

The newest addition to the jail comes this month as the installation to a new cooler is completed. The new cooler is about twice the size of the old cooler and is located in a safer proximity to the new facility. The older cooler is currently located in the basement of the court house, where the old jail facility was located.

The old jail was originally constructed as a men-only facility and only held enough cells for 10 men. Later additions were made to add six more slots for women. The cooler located down the hall from those cells was built around 40 years ago and was only made to hold small amount of food.

With the new facility in place, there's room for 30 inmates and the county sees an average of 20 or more on a daily basis. Eight slots a day are used by Miles City. Other neighboring counties have also utilized the new facility. Currently one-third of the prisoners are from out-of-county. Meier added that they've seen the facility getting more use since the upswing of the Bakken.

The growing pains created some issues as the semi delivering food for prisoners could only make drops at certain times and it all had to be taken down a flight of stairs for storage. As food was used the trip from the new facility to the old one and back created safety and security issues. Meier said that those issues would be solved on completion of the new project.

"We've been talking about the addition over the last year," Meier said.

Meier said that the meals come from Spokane and will now be able to be bulk-ordered to save some money. The company freezes individual meals that can be made for health issues and cover all the nutritional needs for each prisoner. The meals cost around $7 a day.

The project cost around $25,000. The commissioners approved $10,000 for the project, while $15,000 came from the commissary funds raised by purchases prisoners made for phone use and snacks. Meier said that the commissary funds have been higher than they expected and have also helped pay for the majority of jail uniforms, towels and bedding.

"It's saving the county a substantial amount of money," Meier said. "The funds are used for the jail only."

Meier said that auditors helped him set up the account and that the profits from commissary purchases vary, sometimes depending on the company and the amount the prisoners purchase. Currently they are averaging $15,000 a year. Popular items for purchase in the commissary are coffee, candy, cookies and chips.

Meier has been able to purchase books for the jail for narcotics and alcoholics anonymous from the funds as well. Alcoholics anonymous are held in the jail twice a week, and they also have church service. The first baptism ever was held in the jail a few weeks ago.


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