Harvey County's jail fees are some of the lowest in the region, and Sheriff T. Walton would like to see those rates increased. As the average inmate population continues to rise and costs for services go up, the county will be needing extra funds.
"With all this increase comes an increase in costs," Walton reported during Monday's County Commission meeting. "We can't control those items. When people come in, unfortunately we need to pay for it. ... How do we compensate for that? I think we have to look at an increase in fees."
Harvey County charges cities $25 a day for housing their inmates. The fees for out of county inmates is $30 per day, but because of overcrowding in the jail, Walton hasn't been able to take in any out of county prisoners.
Reno County is one of the highest in the region, with a fee of $40 per day. The city of Hutchinson pays 14 percent of the Reno County Detention Center's operating costs in lieu of the $40 per day rate.
Ford County is also $40 per day; McPherson County is $35; and Butler County is $30 per day but will increase to $35 in 2014. Like Harvey County, Marion County charges $25 a day but also has an additional $40 booking fee.
Walton proposed increasing Harvey County's daily rate to $30 in January 2014, and $35 in 2015. In 2016, he would like to do a comparison study with other counties to make sure Harvey County's rates remain in line with the region.
Walton also would like to see an increase in the rate Harvey County charges for housing federal prisoners, as well.
The county is paid $55 a day for housing a federal prisoner, plus payment for that patient's medication. The jail brought in more than $1 million last year by housing federal prisoners, and the program has become a major revenue generator for the county.
Butler County brings in more than $2.5 million in inmate revenue, and their federal inmate rate is increasing to $65. They save aside some money for a "rainy day fund," which is used to make repairs and purchase new detention center equipment, and Walton thinks this might be a good idea to implement in Harvey County, as well.
Commissioners voiced their support for seeking an increase in jail fees, though Walton reported that increase alone won't be enough to fully address current needs and increased costs.
Last week, Walton reported to the Kansan the Harvey County Detention Center's inmate population started reaching a critical level around the first of the year, and that trend hasn't stopped.
The jail was built to hold 136, but with three cells out of operation, that number has dropped to 130. Recently, the jail hit an average weekly population of 136. That's a dramatic jump from 2009, when the daily inmate average was only 98.
Walton said the cut-off for the number of inmates the county can take is 145. If the jail goes over that number, the county will have to pay to send prisoners to other jails. On Friday, the jail hit 141.
"It seems like just this year, things have skyrocketed," Walton said.
Some possible reasons for the increasing inmate population could be a down economy, tougher domestic violence enforcement, and mental health funding cuts.
Harvey County Emergency Management coordinator Lon Buller reported to commissioners Harvey County officially qualified for a federal disaster declaration for the major snowstorm Feb. 20-23.
The county is entitled to receive assistance for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.
"We're pretty fortunate we did make it through," Buller said.