County, city to negotiate inmate costs

Sharna Johnson

Curry County and the city are poised to start negotiations on the cost of housing inmates at the jail with the county saying it needs more money and the city taking the position it’s already paying enough.

Under a 2008 joint powers agreement, Clovis pays the county $115,000 a year — less than 3 percent of the jail’s $4.2 million annual budget — or about $9,500 a month toward the cost of housing inmates.

In February, the county commission authorized County Manager Lance Pyle to renegotiate the contract.

“With an increase of prisoners being housed in the Curry County Detention Center and the costs associated, the Board of Curry County Commissioners met in Special Session and approved to reopen and renegotiate the Multi-services Contract with the City of Clovis,” the county wrote in a letter to Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield.

Jail data from Jan. 31 shows nearly 70 percent of inmates were there on charges filed by the Clovis Police Department.

Records showed there were 1,106 individual charges booked at the jail that day, translating to an average of four per inmate.

Of those, 46 were filed in Clovis Municipal Court, the court which presides over violations of city ordinances.

Roughly 25 percent of charges were filed by the Curry County Sheriff’s office and about 3 percent by state police.

The jail data was provided to the Clovis News Journal in March following a request for a one day roster of inmates including charges, bond amounts and the court handling the case.

The 2008 agreement currently in place was an amendment to a 2000 contract in which the city contributed $60,000 a year toward the jail’s then-$2 million detention budget, Pyle said.

“We will have to discuss the city’s costs of providing service to the residents (of the county) and the county’s costs with the detention center,” Pyle said Tuesday.

“We both have limited funds and we both have needs, so we’re going to have to sit down and look at it.”

Pyle said he doesn’t have a firm date set for the negotiations.

He said he is in the process of gathering data and hopes to sit down with the city manager before the county’s budget is finalized in July.

“We’re (the county’s) going into the budget process, and this is an item that will impact our 2011-2012 fiscal budget,” he said.

“Our goal would be to have something prior to that time.”

City Manager Joe Thomas said the existing contract is fair and just because the city arrests more people, doesn’t mean the inmates are theirs.

“I think the city’s position is that we feel the current contract that’s in place is adequate,” he said.

“There’s certainly a lot more police officers in the (Clovis Police Department than other agencies, so) it’s safe to assume that Clovis Police Officers are going to be making more arrests, but that doesn’t necessarily make that person a city prisoner.”

Thomas said the true question lies in the origin of the charges and whether an inmate is charged with violating city code, county or state statute.

“Just because a city officer makes an arrest does not mean the city has an obligation for that arrestee … (That’s) very dependent on the charge and what level the charge is,” he said.

Thomas declined to discuss negotiations, which he said should take place in the near future. He said until the city is, “able to sit down at the table and have face-to-face discussion with the county, it probably would be inappropriate to try to argue our case in the media.”

Thomas said statutorily the county is charged with running the jail.

In the late 1980s the city had its own jail used for short-term holding, but Thomas, who was a police officer at the time, said it was closed about the time detention regulations increased.

Even then, inmates charged under state statutes were transferred to the county jail, Thomas said.