<BR> Negotiations continue on renting jail beds
A lot of questions, and not just financial costs, have to be addressed before the proposed five-year agreement can be signed between Jefferson and Crook counties
Work continues on developing an agreement between county officials and Jefferson County for the rent of 35 or 40 beds in that counties soon-to-open jail.
For some time, as a short-term solution to Crook Counties problem with lack of sufficient jail space, the two county)s have been working on a solution that would benefit both. Crook County needs jail space, and Jefferson County will soon have a brand new jail without an operating budget to run it. Renting bed space is a possible resolution to both.
Early in the discussion, Sheriff Rodd Clark wanted to make it clear that such an agreement would not be the full answer; there will still be a need to build a new jail. Twice voters have turned down plans to build a new jail facility to serve Crook County's needs. The present jail, located behind city hall, has serious problems.
To meet minimum Jail Standards, a state inspector concluded that a fire system upgrade will be required by 2004. To meet those standards would mean bringing the entire building up to code, and it is believed to do that would mean starting from the ground up. Signing a five-year agreement with Jefferson County could give Crook County some breathing room.
But renting jail space from Jefferson County has problems. Even at $45 per bed, per day, it could be an expensive undertaking. In an estimated budget presented by Sheriff Clark, the cost of operating the present jail is about $731,000. Any of six scenarios could cost anywhere between $748,000 and $1.1 million a year.
One proposal would have Crook County rent 40 beds at $45 per day for a total of about $748,000. Add to that transportation costs, estimated at about $256,000 and the price tag is slightly more than $1 million. All of the sheriff's proposals involve renovating the east wing of the present jail into a holding facility ($30,00) and maintaining 12 beds at the work/treatment center in Bend. Additionally, there is the cost of juvenile detention space for Measure 11 juveniles that can't be housed at the Jefferson County facility. That housing is estimated to cost about $120 to $150 per day.
Along with questioning the cost estimates, Circuit Court Judge Gary Thompson added another factor into the mix.
"I would like to have more beds available to me," he said, "but I suspect it'll cost more (than has been estimated). That is all exclusive of transport and medical and health needs. But I am concerned about shutting this jail down. What happens if after the five years, voters don't approve a new jail?"
County Court Judge Scott Cooper mentioned that he had heard the state was talking to Jefferson County about renting space, and paying $75 per bed. But he added, we've made a commitment to the public. "The question is, should we go ahead and lock up those 40 beds. We can always fall back and keep our jail. But that won't help pass a jail bond. To go out now and tell the public 'sorry folks, we don't need the 40 beds as we said. We can get by with our 24.' That won't work."
Thompson said whatever decision is made, he needs at least six jail beds for female prisoners. "I would love to have 30 or 40 beds, with four to six for females. But be sure before you make a decision, you know all the ramifications. If this jail closes and we don't have a new jail in five years, we'll be in real trouble."
The judge said he would suggest keeping the county jail open as long as possible and renting beds as needed from Bend and Jefferson counties. "They'll rent you beds. You may not get them at $45, but they'll rent them." His suggestion is to close down the west wing of the county jail, leaving the county with 16 beds, and then renting 16 beds elsewhere.