City close to agreement on county jail contract

A new jail contract with Clallam County for housing people accused of misdemeanors could be ready for city council consideration in one or two weeks.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict spoke to the city council about the need for a new contract during its Monday morning work session.

Following his presentation, the council convened in a one-hour executive session to discuss the issue but didn't take any action afterward.

A proposed jail contract approved last year by the council was rejected because of a change in state law.

Interim city manager Bob Spinks said Benedict has continued to extend the expired contract using a rate of $64 per day, which is about a $10,000 annual increase over 2008 and was budgeted.

So the new jail contract rate being considered for 2009 of $67 a day plus $3 for medical costs is not significantly higher, he said, adding they were budgeting for about 4,000 days.

The city's number of arrests doubled between 2004 and 2007, so this is just a cost of doing business, Spinks said.

The jail must accept felony inmates at no cost but cities are responsible for all costs for those accused of misdemeanors and the city has no alternative, Spinks wrote in a memo to the council.

The cities of Sequim and Forks sued the county in 2006 to clarify felony prisoner billing practices and that lawsuit has yet to be resolved.

But since Benedict became sheriff in January 2007, they have discussed a new jail contract, Spinks' memo stated.

Two specific additions to the contract are "book and release" of prisoners and clearer wording on how the city and city prosecutor can arrange release of prisoners, the memo stated.

Benedict told the council that Grays Harbor County Jail charges $72 per day and Jefferson County charges $90 per day.

They must get creative because these costs are expensive, he said.

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