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A turnaround year

By Staff | Dec 30, 2009

Rugby’s correctional and treatment center began 2009 with a low inmate count, over $2 million in debt and in the early stages of an ownership transfer.

It ended the year under new ownership, inmate counts of over 100; a small cash reserve; and with a new name.

What a difference a year makes.

“Early (in 2009) there was a lot of concerns and not knowing how the transfer of ownership would go,’ said Elaine Little, administrator. “Today, we’re happy with the direction we’re going.”

After six months of meetings and piles of paperwork, the Rugby Area Job Development Authority, Pierce County and USDA Rural Development finished the ownership transfer.

The JDA purchased the then-three year-old facility from USDA using a Community Facilities Loan for the appraised value of just over $2 million. A few months later the USDA formally approved the transfer and thus retired the debt.

The JDA and Pierce County agreed to a 20-year lease to own agreement in which the facility would be under the operation of the county. A new advisory board was appointed and would continue to provide oversight and work with management. Under the ownership agreement the facility’s name would change.

No longer would it be known as North Central Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. A new name, Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center (HACTC) was established.

The facility received a boost by securing a contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to board up to 35 prisoners. Since May, the facility has seen its numbers steadily rise. “We’ve consistently been at 80 or above, Little said.

The center’s drug rehabilitation center has been at or near capacity while the jail side numbers has fluctuated somewhat.

Eighty is the magic number in generating enough revenue through prisoner boardings to meet all operational expenses as well as paying of the new loan. The facility employs 32 and its monthly payroll is $120,000. The HACTC began making payments to the JDA last fall.

The focus of the HACTC board and administration is to continue to explore other potential boarding contracts as well as as build the reserve fund, Little said. To date that totaled just under $100,000.

While inmate numbers presently are well above 80, Little knows the population can fluctuate and having a reserve to draw from will allow the facility to continue make ends meet in the event the boarding revenues drop for a period of time.

The facility is four years old and Little said its inevitable some repairs and maintenance will also be necessary.

Indeed, there are always challenges, but the HACTC is now in a far better position to meet them.

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