County Delays PerDiem Vote

December 2, 2008
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Following through on a request made Tuesday morning by Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth, members of the county’s Finance Committee tabled their vote to give five cities a 25 percent reduction in per-diem and arrest-processing fees at the county jail.

And unless further action is taken on the issue, the Finance Committee or the full Board of Commissioners won’t revisit the matter until the middle of March. The new fees were to go into effect Jan. 1.

The reduction came from an agreement county leadership made with the mayors of Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Walker, Wyoming and Grandville in late October, an unofficial pact that would cut the jail fees the cities pay the county for their ordinance offenders.

But since that agreement was reached, Forsyth said he has learned that some of the cities that received the discount have plans to repeal their enforcement ordinances.

If the cities take that action it would mean those offenders would be charged under state law rather than a local ordinance. Being charged under state law shifts the prosecution of the offenders from city attorneys to county prosecutors.

“Some are actually talking about repealing those ordinances, or picking and choosing (which ones to repeal),” said Forsyth.

Forsyth told the committee that his office doesn’t have the staff to add those cases to its workload. He said having to hire three new prosecutors to handle that caseload would cost the county at least an additional $150,000 a year.

“I don’t have the staff to do that. I can’t get answers from the cities (on exactly what they’re going to do),” he said. “My issue is not, per se, with the per-diem.”

So Forsyth asked the committee to table its vote until he can learn what the cities plan to do about their enforcement ordinances and members agreed to delay their vote until March 17. The full commission was scheduled to vote on the reduction agreement Dec. 11, but that matter will not be on the agenda for the board’s final meeting of the year.

“I think we need to know the ground rules before we go forward with the cities,” said Roger Morgan, county commission chairman.

But County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said any county commissioner can raise the issue for discussion and a vote at the next meeting.

The new charges to the cities were to have become effective Jan. 1, and the reduction would have cost the county up to $600,000 for 2009.

The new discount lowers the daily fee the cities would pay to have the county house its offenders from $47.80 to $35.85, which amounts to 46 percent of what it costs the county to house an inmate each day. The county says it costs $77.46 per inmate, per day.

The new discount would also lower the arrest-processing fee from $20.80 to $15.06, or 68 percent of what it costs the county to process an offender. The county says its costs $22.17 to enter each inmate into the system.

County data shows that the five cities are expected to send 29,635 offenders to the jail next year.

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