El Dorado police officials proposed lowering the fee paid for inmates to be housed at the county jail, saying the fee is more than the actual costs.
In 2016, the jail committee decided on a $162,000 flat rate toward housing inmates sent to the county jail by the El Dorado Police Department, which went into effect in 2017.
The committee met Tuesday to review the rate and discuss if it should be changed for 2018.
According to an article published in the News-Times on Nov. 2, 2016, the flat fee of $162,000 was based on research conducted by Alderman Vance Williamson, Alderman Willie McGhee, El Dorado Police Chief Billy White and police Capt. Michael Leveritt.
Broken down, the city has been paying the county $13,500 a month for 2017.
“We kept up with the actual cost for us,” White said. “In February, even though we paid $13,500, the actual cost was $9,700.”
He broke down all of the months between February through September, with the highest cost being $11,400 for April.
“We’re actually paying money that we really don’t need to be paying,” White said. “If we were to pay jail fees at the $50 rate, those would be our actual costs, which at this point would put us roughly at $81,500.
“My proposal for this next year is to do away with the $162,000 fee and just simply go as other agencies do with the $50 a person a day. That will reduce us from $162,000 to $120,000,” he added.
The jail has 72 hours to get the inmates before a judge. Once the inmate sees the judge, they become the county jail’s responsibility. The $50 a day, per city inmate, only lasts until the inmate sees the judge.
Union County Sheriff Ricky Roberts said there are five city inmates that have been in jail for over one year, one of whom has been in jail for 874 days.
“There’s a lot more to it than us just giving them three meals a day,” Roberts said. “It’s up to us to pay their medical bills.”
There are also thousands of dollars worth of maintenance needed at the jail, including air conditioning units and other updates because of mandatory regulations and laws.
El Dorado inmates make up about 70 percent of the county jail, Roberts said.
“What I’m asking for today is to just keep it at $162,000,” he added.
After agreeing to the $162,000 in 2016, the 911 check shared by the city and county disappeared, Williamson said.
“Our part of it was about $57,000,” he added.
By not receiving that $57,000, Williamson reiterated White’s proposal to bring the rate down to $120,000.
“We are under no obligation to keep your prisoners,” Quorum Court member Johnny Burson said. “So you can clean your jail out and you can run it, and we’ll take care of the county and you take care of the city.
“That’s not the most efficient thing. That’s not good for the people of Union County, but we’re not going to keep taking cuts,” he added.
“Everybody sitting at this table was voted in by the people to come and represent their voice, their vote and their concern,” McGhee said. “The chief has a point, the sheriff has a point. I think it’s our job to sit here and try to find some middle ground that we can all agree on.”
A millage rate increase was proposed as a solution to bring to the Quorum Court meeting Thursday.
It was also suggested that other officials from surrounding cities, including mayors, could be invited to discuss the county jail’s income.
The suggestions, as well as a recommendation to keep the inmate housing rate at $162,000, will be brought to the Quorum Court on Thursday.