Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian is continuing to pursue the creation of a regional lockup facility for cities and towns within the county despite Gov. Deval Patrick vetoing $1.5 million in state funding for the facility's construction.
Koutoujian originally requested that his office carry over the $1.5 million remaining in supplemental funding it received last year into the new fiscal year, the Sentinel and Enterprise reported. That funding was included in a $40 million supplemental budget bill that Patrick vetoed.
In a press release Tuesday, the Middlesex Sheriff's office announced that it had reached an agreement with legislators in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance to use capital expenditures to fund the $1.5 million project that would create a regional lockup facility through the renovation of a wing of the Billerica House of Corrections.
"Securing funding for the regional holding facility was a team effort that included every police chief in Middlesex County," said Koutoujian in the press release. "A regional lockup will help save local departments money and allow them to take officers off prisoner watch and put them on community watch.”
The Sentinel and Enterprise reported that police chiefs from all 54 cities and towns in Middlesex County wrote a letter to legislators in support of Koutoujian's request.
Tewksbury Police Chief Tim Sheehan said the new regional lock-up, manned by corrections officers, will allow Tewksbury officers to concentrate more of their efforts on local law enforcement.
"I am very excited about the regional lock-up initiative. This is a very important issue to all of the Middlesex chiefs and one that has been in the works for a very long time," said Sheehan. " I am very thankful that Sheriff Koutoujian has made this a priority and that our Legislative leaders have decided to support the initiative. This initiative would free up the manpower associated with monitoring prisoners that are not being bailed and will remove a portion of the liability associated with prisoners who attempt to harm themselves while being detained.
"This will allow us to focus more attention on what’s going on in the community while we leave the long-term detention issues to the professionals who do that every day," added Sheehan.
State Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, said he strongly supported the regional lock-up for its cost-effectiveness and its contribution to keeping residents safe.
“In these times of tight municipal budgets, sharing a regional lockup for Middlesex County will be a big help to our local police departments in Tewksbury and Dracut,” said Finegold. “If we can save money while keeping our neighborhoods safer, that’s a win-win situation.”