Jail fees back on agenda

January 11, 2009
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The Kent County Finance Committee and Board of Commissioners are scheduled to take another look next week at giving five cities a 25 percent reduction in per-diem and arrest-processing fees at the county jail.

The Finance Committee was to have made a recommendation early last month on the reduction agreement that county leadership carved out with the mayors of Grand Rapids, Walker, Wyoming Kentwood and Grandville in late October. Then commissioners were to have voted on the issue two days after the committee made its recommendation.

But at the December committee meeting, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth asked members to table the matter and they did. Forsyth said then that he had heard some cities were planning to repeal some of their enforcement ordinances and charge offenders under state law rather than local ordinance.

If that was true, Forsyth said he was concerned that his office’s workload could rise by thousands of cases, and he didn’t have the staff to handle such an increase. Also, the county would have been held financially responsible to house and process these state-charged local offenders.

But at a meeting held last week between county officials — including Forsyth — and the mayors, those concerns were put to rest.

“We all seemed pretty comfortable with the discussion that took place. Bill was concerned that he didn’t want thousands of additional cases by being charged under state law. That doesn’t seem to be how it’s going to materialize,” said Daryl Delabbio, administrator and controller for Kent County.

“It’s the same agreement that we had before, except there was some clarification that was necessary and now we’ve got that,” he said of Forsyth’s apprehensions.

If the agreement is approved by county commissioners, the cities would have their daily charge to house inmates at the jail fall from $47.80 to $35.85 and the arrest-process fee drop from $20.80 to $15.06. The county said it costs $77.46 per day to house each inmate. The reduction is likely to cost the county from $525,000 to $600,000 over a year’s time.

The Finance Committee will review the agreement Jan. 20, with the matter going to the full commission Jan. 22.

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