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County reveals new jail expense estimates at meeting

Staff writer

No matter what answers the architect gave Monday evening, some Hillsboro residents wanted more.

Tony Rangle of Law Kingdon Architects of Wichita, the consultant hired by Marion County Commission to provide information about a new jail, provided answers to questions that were asked at previous public meetings.

More than 60 people crowded into Hillsboro Senior Center to hear the presentation.

However, with some of the answers, more questions were asked and one constituent wanted proof of an answer.

Rangle explained that he was not promoting a new jail but was hired to provide information.

At a previous meeting, Rangle had compared Marion County to Sumner County. Some constituents at the meeting did not agree with the comparison since Sumner County is a much larger county. Rangle explained that the comparison was for population declines not population numbers, and increases in retail sales.

Since 2005, Sumner County has experienced a similar population decrease like Marion County of one percent per year.

However, like Marion County, Sumner County has seen an increase in retail sales in the past three years. In 2005, Sumner County retail sales were $30.1 million. In 2006, they were $32.5 million. The increase continued in 2007 with more than $36 million in retail sales.

Taking prisoners elsewhere

The cost to transport and house prisoners out-of-county could be an estimated $47,660 per prisoner per year, Rangle said. Based on 11 prisoners per year, that figured to be $8.5 million during a 30-year period.

When asked to explain how he came to that figure, Rangle said it could cost the county as much as $34 per day per prisoner for housing. One full-time detention officer would be required to drive an eight-passenger vehicle, which also would need to be purchased. Fuel also was figured in the final number.

He continued that the cost estimate does not include improvements to the county jail and other costs to continue to use the county jail to house prisoners before being transported and while in Marion for court appearances.

An audience member asked Rangle for a worksheet to show the costs. Rangle said he would get a copy for him.

Operating expenses and revenue

At long last, Rangle showed the eager audience the costs to operate a new jail facility.

It was estimated that operating costs could be as much as $612,000 if the jail was full with 77 beds or nearly $500,000 if 44 beds were taken.

Revenue from taking out-of-county inmates at $34 per day per prisoner could calculate to be $12,410 annually which would include housing meals, and laundry.

Rangle said there was a potential of more than $800,000 per year in revenue with 66 inmates.

“The commission looked at larger and smaller facilities. It was determined that the value of 77 beds would allow the facility to be built up to capacity,” he said.

Right now, about $120,000 is being paid to maintain the county jail.

With a new jail, a work release program could be implemented (four beds are allotted in the plan), and those prisoners who participate in the program could be required to pay the county a fee. The question was asked if work release would be available to out-of-county prisoners. Rangle said it would be up to the sheriff but probably for in-county prisoners only.

Local funds, contractors

Municipal bonds will first be marketed locally, Rangle said.

Local contractors and suppliers also will be given an opportunity to bid.

How is Sumner County Jail doing?

Approximately $500,000 per year is spent to operate the Sumner County Jail, Rangle said. Sumner County is receiving $700,000 per year in revenue from renting beds. The funds are used to offset the expenses with the remaining funds going to the general fund.

Rangle said he knows the cost and revenue estimates he is using for Marion County are conservative but Sumner County figures are real numbers.

Other information

  • Expenses for the sheriff’s department and the county jail are paid through the general fund.
  • There has been no formal market analysis for the project because other counties cannot commit to a contract with Marion County until a new jail is actually constructed. Rangle explained that when counties house prisoners in other jails, that “home” county still is responsible for medical expenses and well-being of prisoners even though they’re housed elsewhere.
  • Marion County is within the required hour’s drive from Wichita in order to house federal prisoners.
  • If a 44-bed jail was built, it would cost $7.6 million for construction, partly because of the 911 communications department but also because the same basic elements are required in a new jail construction regardless of the size. If the facility is larger, there is more chance to recoup expenses by renting beds. Operating expense would be nearly $500,000 per year for the 44-bed facility.
  • The only other funding option for a new jail other than sales tax is property taxes.

Other public meetings were held Tuesday and Thursday.

Constituents will vote on the bond issue in the Nov. 4 election.

Last modified Oct. 22, 2008

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