County cuts lock-up charges for cities

October 23, 2008
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The estimated $2.1 million the cities of Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, Walker and Grandville currently pay Kent County to house their ordinance offenders at the county jail will be reduced by 25 percent, or roughly $525,000, beginning on Jan. 1.

Representatives of the cities and the county unveiled their new agreement at a press conference held this morning in the county building, a contract they said has the potential to put a seven-month dispute over the fee to rest and begin a new era of cooperation to further economic development throughout the county.

“We will further reduce the per-diem cost by 25 percent from what they pay now,” said County Vice Chairman Richard Vander Molen.

“We hoped to eliminate the per-diems completely, so this is a compromise,” said Walker Mayor Rob VerHeulen.

Cities currently pay $47.80 per day to house their offenders in the county jail. Starting next year that fee will drop to $35.85. The county said it costs $74.97 to house an inmate for a day.

The agreement also calls for the reduction to be lowered to 20 percent if a city increases the number of beds it uses at the jail and for the cities to encourage their police officers to issue appearance tickets as often as possible to lower the total number of bookings.

The document also calls for the county to consider additional reductions in the per-diem charge if the county begins receiving revenue-sharing payments from the state in 2011.

Finally, the agreement calls for the creation of a joint cities-county committee that will look at efforts to boost economic development throughout the county.

“We will work together wherever we can to enhance economic activity in the county,” said VerHeulen.

When the Business Journal asked County Commission Chairman Roger Morgan what the county received from the agreement, he said Kent gained an opportunity to discuss with the cities how the cities’ capture and exemption of county property tax and millage revenue affect the county. The county said $7.3 million of its tax revenue was captured and exempted by cities and townships last year.

“The process sometimes became derailed, but we continued to move and continued to meet,” said Grandville Mayor Jim Buck of the route both sides took to reach an agreement. “It provides us a great opportunity to move on.”

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