Prisoner fees place strain on Kingman's annual budget
KINGMAN - The county's Aug. 7 decision to increase jail fees to cities for misdemeanor arrests caught the Kingman Police Department by surprise as the City Council had approved its annual budget. But Police Chief Bob DeVries said the new policy would not impact public safety.
"There is no way we will try to arrest less (criminals) just because of the increased costs," DeVries said.
DeVries said he understood that the Mohave County Sheriff's Office needed to hire more officers to work at the jail facilities because of the increased crimes in the county. The only problem is that the police department's budget for the next fiscal year has been approved by the City Council, and his office has to find a way to get extra funding to cover the increased costs for misdemeanor arrests, DeVries said.
A rough estimate indicates KPD needs at least $120,000 a year to pay for the increased jail fee.
DeVries said KPD would work closely with the city government to get the problem solved.
The county Board of Supervisors approved the proposal to increase the per diem rate from $45.96 to $55 with an additional booking fee of $65 despite strong opposition from representatives from both Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City.
Kingman objected to the proposal, too, though no formal objection was sounded in the meeting, said Kingman Finance Officer Coral Loyd,
She said she had informed the Board before the meeting about Kingman's objection.
Kingman's position was to hold the motion until the next fiscal year to give the city time to work out a relevant budget plan.
With collective efforts from the three cities, the Board agreed to postpone the implementation of the new policy to Oct. 1 instead of the proposed July 1 to allow city governments more time to work out relevant financial solutions.
Loyd said the city would try to figure out how to deal with the issue before October.
Sheriff Tom Sheahan said the increased fee would allow his office to hire 13 more officers and reopen a jail facility near the airport, which was closed several years ago due to the lack of funding.
The boot camp near the airport holds 45 to 50 low-risk, non-violent inmates and will relieve the pressure of the already over-crowded main jail facility, Sheahan said.
Sheahan described the living conditions at the airport facility as "tolerable," but that's the best his office can do.
Even with the reopened facility, Sheahan said he still needs to figure out other ways to hold the ever-increasing number of inmates in the county.
He said he will meet with county superior court judges soon to discuss the possibility of speeding up court proceedings. Quicker proceedings would help shorten some inmates' stay in county jails, Sheahan said.
In the long term, Sheahan said he hoped a new county jail would be in place in two to three years to help relieve the overcrowding problem.