A 40-plus-year-old arrangement between the City of Great Bend and Barton County over the cost to house inmates in the Barton County Jail has been revised, Sheriff Brian Bellendir told the Barton County Commission Monday morning.
The sheriff had instituted a change in jail inmate fees the county charges the city, going from a flat annual fee to a per-inmate charge. The new fees, which didn’t require action by the commission, go into effect in July 1.
Kansas law provides that cities committing prisoners to the County jail “shall provide for the payment of such compensation upon receipt of statement from the sheriff of such county as to the amount due from such city.”
In 1972, the city of Great Bend closed its jail so by state law, the county was required to house city prisoners, Bellendir said. Under an agreement that dates back to the 70s, the City of Great Bend provides an annual fee to the county for this service which now amounts to $37,000.
Other municipalities within the county are charged $17.50 a day per inmate, plus any medical expenses. According to the state statute, the county can charge enough to cover all the jail expenses, which in Barton County’s case would total $80 per day.
However, the going rate statewide is $35 per day, the sheriff said. Since the communities in Barton County already pay taxes to support the jail, he charges them half price.
But Great Bend has been different and now that flat fee is starting to take a toll. “It’s affecting my budget,” Bellendir said.
Over the years, due to statutory changes and changes in the municipal judge, there have been more city inmates and their sentences are longer. So, its costing more and more to house them.
Bellendir sent a letter to the city and county administrators have talked with city officials. “They weren’t shocked,” he said, adding they were probably expecting some sort of adjustment.
With the county’s budget situation being precarious, “I need to be as efficient I can be over there,” the sheriff said. At the current rate of city usage, the change would net about an additional $35,000 per year.
The city could reduce the number of prisoners who use the facility by shortening sentences, cutting the number of violators it sends to jail or start moving some cases from municipal court to district court (which would require the county pay for incarceration). But theses moves would also reduce the city’s revenue, Bellendir said.
“We need to make sure Great Bend pays its fair share,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. She commended Bellendir for tackling such a difficult matter.
“This was all dreamed up in 1972,” Commissioner Don Davis said. “Things change.”
Barton County will continue to charge $35 per day for inmates from outside the county.