By James Niedzinski
---- — ESSEX — With Manchester rejecting a new offer by the Essex Police Department for a new prisoner lockup agreement, police and town officials here are now shopping the deal around to three other communities.
Throughout the years, Essex has had to shift any prisoners it had arrested or held to other Cape Ann communities, as the town’s police station has no lockup. And Essex currently pays Manchester an upfront fee of $1,000 a year, in addition to a rate of $150 per prisoner transported from Essex to Manchester.
But earlier this month, Essex Police Chief Peter Silva aimed to eliminate the $1,000 fee heading into the new fiscal year.
Manchester officials, however, said the annual $1,000 is needed so the town does not lose money on the deal.
“The argument was, we would not breaking even,” newly elected Manchester Selectman Eli Boling said Thursday.
Boling added the board did not reject the offer altogether, but were unwilling to give up the annual fee.
”We voted to keep the price where it is,” said Robert Hoff Jr., the town’s other new selectman chosen by voters last month.
The upfront cost has been reduced over the years; at one point it was as high as $4,000 annually. And Essex Chief Silva said he’s not happy about the dilemma his town is now facing.
“I’m extremely surprised and quite disappointed,” Silva said.
As part of the agreement, an Essex police officer must transport a prisoner to the Manchester department and accompany the prisoner while in Manchester; Essex police cannot simply drop off a prisoner. With that, Manchester faces additional costs as well.
“In an arrest Essex,officers will complete the booking process but we do have to have one of our officers present to assist,” Manchester Police Chief Glenn McKiel wrote in an email to the Times. Having a Manchester officer to accompany somebody arrested in Essex takes that officer off of another assignment, in addition to any food and cleaning costs Manchester might incur if the prisoner has to stay overnight, McKiel said.
“Processing Essex prisoners is partially revenue neutral for us,” he added.
Silva estimated Essex sends anywhere from 40 to 70 prisoners to Manchester annually. The Essex Police Department has previously shipped prisoners to Rockport and Gloucester.
Any new agreement will be temporary as prisoners in Essex will be transported to the Middleton prisoner intake center within two years, once the new facility there is completed.
“I expect some things to change in a very short period of time,” Silva said. “I have to do what’s best for the community.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.