County eases up after cities take offense over jail fees
Local law enforcement scored a win with the Garfield County commissioners Monday when the commissioners agreed to lower a daily housing fee for municipal prisoners from $62 to $15.
The original fee was proposed to cover the cost of operating the new county jail, but local police chiefs protested, saying municipalities already pay their fair share for the jail.
“The charge is not only unfair to the municipalities in Garfield County, it brings about several questions as to unfair taxation,” said Silt police chief Paul Taylor.
“All the municipalities in Garfield County pay the same amount of tax as the residents in the unincorporated areas of the county. In actuality, there are more municipal residents than county residents, therefore we pay a greater percentage of the cost of operating the jail.”
Garfield County has yet to accept municipal prisoners. An agreement between the municipal and other county law enforcement agencies and the county has not been signed.
On Monday, the commissioners passed on first reading an ordinance setting the daily fee for prisoners, to be adopted at the June 3 commissioners’ meeting.
In a May 1 letter to the commissioners, Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri recommended a charge of $15 per day as “a reasonable and manageable fee that would not adversely impact the financial status of local police departments and courts.”
Dalessandri said $15 is the daily cost of care currently assessed to inmates who have been sentenced for their crime.
“Sixty-two dollars is totally unacceptable. They probably should pay something, but it should be very minimal. Fifteen dollars is not an exorbitant fee,” he said.
Taylor added that he has a problem with paying a daily housing charge for prisoners who are booked into the jail on an outstanding warrant.
“There has never been a charge for this service” at other jails, he said.
County Commissioner John Martin urged his colleagues to accept Dalessandri’s recommendation and get on with the agreement so the jail can begin accepting municipal and out-of-county prisoners.
“We’re six months into the new jail and we still haven’t taken any municipal prisoners. That should be our top priority,” he said. “Fifteen dollars is a reasonable cost. It won’t break the bank.”
Dalessandri also suggested a cap of 20 municipal and out-of-county prisoners in order to avoid overcrowding.
The commissioners agreed to the cap.
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