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Wakulla Co. Commissioners move forward to nix once-lucrative WCSO contract with ICE

The Wakulla County Jail has housed federal ICE detainees for decades. But that agreement is...
The Wakulla County Jail has housed federal ICE detainees for decades. But that agreement is coming to an end.(WCTV)
Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 7:28 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A 30-year relationship between the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement is coming to an end, for now.

County commissioners voted unanimously to end a contract with ICE at Monday’s commission meeting after holding a workshop on the issue earlier in the day.

According to county Fiscal Operations Director Brandy King, the contract started around 1990 and proved to be a major source of revenue over the years. The county received federal dollars from ICE for housing immigrant detainees in the Wakulla County Jail.

In her presentation to the BOCC Monday, King explained that the agreement brought in over $25 million in revenue since 2010, providing a significant source of funding for the sheriff’s office and other departments.

But the number of ICE detainees has trickled away, according to King. She told commissioners only 13 inmates remain in the jail, compared to 66 inmates as recently as November.

“It’s been quite a dramatic reduction and it came hard and fast,” she said.

King said the numbers really dropped off when the Biden administration issued certain executive orders after taking the White House in January.

At the current pace, the county was losing about $66,000 a month, according to King’s report.

By the end of the workshop, commissioners appeared to be in agreement that the county needed to end the contract, and submit the required 120-day notice to ICE.

Commissioner Mike Kemp said the county has “no choice” at this point but to get rid of the deal. But he said “it had been a good run,” noting the “jail paid for itself” thanks to the revenue raised.

Wakulla County Sheriff Jared Miller also addressed commissioners during the workshop, saying he reached out to ICE contacts to see if more inmates would be headed to Crawfordville, but he didn’t receive an encouraging answer.

“We have no choice,” he said, noting it won’t get better any time soon. Sheriff Miller said the county could possibly resume the contract sometime in the future.

King indicated the county faces a $900,000 hole in the budget in the wake of this situation. Pandemic related federal funds could be used as an immediate answer, but King said commissioners need a long-term solution to fill the gap.

That could come from cutting expenses, like pulling from the library or recreation budgets, or it could come by raising revenue through raising taxes.

In the meantime, Sheriff Miller indicated cuts to his agency could be on the way, including the elimination of several positions in the department.

But in a statement sent to WCTV, Sheriff Miller remained upbeat about the state of WCSO.

“No matter what the decision by the Commission, The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office is in great shape and we are looking forward to continuing to serve Wakulla County,” he wrote.

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