Ben­ton County raises jail fees for cities

Westside Eagle-Observer - - NEWS - TOM SISSOM tsis­som@nwadg.com

BEN­TONVILLE — Ben­ton County of­fi­cials en­dorsed a $5 in­crease in the fees charged for hous­ing mu­nic­i­pal pris­on­ers in the jail, rais­ing the amount from $50 per day to $55 per day.

The Fi­nance Com­mit­tee voted to send the rec­om­men­da­tion on to the Com­mit­tee of the Whole for fur­ther dis­cus­sion.

Brenda Guen­ther, comp­trol­ler, said the fee charged to cities has lagged be­hind costs and the dis­par­ity has in­creased with an ad­di­tion to the jail.

Ac­cord­ing to Guen­ther, the fee was $40 in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Quo­rum Court in­creased the fee to $45 in 2016 and to $50 in 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to Guen­ther, the cost of hous­ing an inmate for one day was es­ti­mated at $45.74 in 2013. That in­creased to $47.91 in 2014, to $50.75 in 2015 and to $53.59 in 2016. Af­ter the county added jail space the cost in­creased to $60.06 in 2017.

“Right now, there’s a $10 spread,” be­tween the costs and the fees charged to cities, Guen­ther said.

Tom Allen, jus­tice of the peace for District 4 and com­mit­tee chair­man, sug­gested in­creas­ing the fee over time.

“I wouldn’t ad­vo­cate we stick them and go with a $10 jump,” Allen said.

Pat Adams, jus­tice of the peace for District 6, dis­agreed, point­ing out that the costs will con­tinue to go up.

“Let’s go ahead and get it up to where we’re at least break­ing even,” Adams said.

Guen­ther said the county re­ceives $30 per day from the Arkansas De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tion for state pris­on­ers. Chief Deputy Meyer Gil­bert said the county re­ceives $56 per day for hous­ing fed­eral pris­on­ers.

The com­mit­tee also rec­om­mended a fund­ing plan for the new ra­dio sys­tem, cost­ing $3.75 mil­lion. The panel elected to spend $1.175 mil­lion from re­serve and bor­row $2 mil­lion to pay for the ra­dio sys­tem. The jus­tices of the peace con­sid­ered pay­ing the full amount but chose to bor­row some money with the op­tion of pay­ing the loan early.

The county has al­ready de­cided to bor­row about $2.5 mil­lion to pay for vot­ing ma­chines. The two loans would re­quire the county pay about $984,589 an­nu­ally. Allen said he wants to have that flex­i­bil­ity un­til plans for a new $30 mil­lion court­house are set. The fund­ing plan for the build­ing is sup­posed to go to vot­ers in a spe­cial elec­tion in March 2019.

“I’m lean­ing to­ward bor­row­ing at least some of it,” Allen said. “There’s just too much un­cer­tainty right now.”

“I kind of like the idea of pay­ing for it all at once,” said Kurt Moore, jus­tice of the peace for District 13. “We don’t have to have all the money for the court­house at once. I don’t like the idea of car­ry­ing two notes at the same time.”

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