GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Despite some questions about the price tag, the Grants Pass City Council voted pay more than $1 million to rent beds in the Josephine County jail.
Wednesday night, the council voted 7-1 in favor of the plan, in which the city will rent a total of 30 jail beds. City police said this allows them to house offenders that would have been cited and released for crimes like drugs, harassment and burglary. Because of cutbacks to the county jail, only the most serious offenders had been put in jail.
“We are today citing and releasing people by the dozens,” public safety chief Joe Henner said. “We’ll cite and release a burglar and a day later they’ll be burglarizing another home.”
The arrangement will run until the end of the fiscal year in June 2014. 20 beds would be rented full-time for $100 per day. 10 additional beds would be used for the same rate if needed.
In May, county voters rejected another public safety tax levy that would have helped fund the sheriff’s office and jail, but a majority of city voters supported the plan. Mayor Darin Fowler said city residents were sending a message that they want to cut down on crime.
“We really needed to head this direction because our city has not been able to keep the criminals we’ve been catching,” Fowler said.
Some councilors expressed concern about the total cost of $1,018,500. They claimed the sheriff’s office had originally quoted the city about half that cost, and several councilors said they felt “blindsided” by the increased price tag.
Councilor Jim Goodwin was the only member to vote against the plan, saying it was because he wanted to find out why the total cost had changed.
“The numbers are so [different],” he said. “It’s too huge a disparity to get over in my mind.”
Ultimately, council members said getting the space in the jail was a too important to delay. Several council members said they want to investigate why the proposed cost went up. Sheriff Gil Gilbertson was not in attendance at the city council meeting.
Half of the money to fund the plan will come from the city’s general fund contingency, and the other half will come from money allotted for capital projects. It will pay for four more employees at the jail.
Henner said the sheriff’s office and jail staff will spend the next few weeks gearing up for the increase in jail beds. He said he expects the 30 beds to easily be filled by suspected criminals caught by city police.