The city of Springfield has declined a Greene County Commission proposal to pay $1 million a year for a temporary jail facility.
In a news release, Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin said Wednesday the city’s decision puts the county “back to square one” in exploring solutions to the jail overcrowding issue. Officials had put the annual cost of the temporary building at $1.5 million, which they projected could be bid out and constructed by end of the year. Plans would connect it to the current jail by an enclosed tunnel and house more than 100 prisoners per day. The city would be guaranteed a minimum of 20 beds a day for municipal prisoners.
Springfield informed the county last Friday following a closed session that it did not intend to sign onto the project. Mayor Bob Stephens said in a letter that the city currently has a “cost-effective, temporary jail solution in place and it is working efficiently.”
Springfield City Council voted in early May to spend up to $500,000 to cover the cost of transporting and housing nearly 150 inmates a year in Miller and Taney counties. The city notes the county made its temporary jail proposal of $1 million a year for three years in late May, after the city had contracted with Miller and Taney counties.
Greene County says it continues to house more than 100 inmates in five other jails each day at a cost of more than $3,500 per day. And officials fear that as those jails reach capacity, they may have to send inmates as far away as northeastern Missouri.
“We asked the city to invest in this proposal because we needed their help and we want to house all prisoners here including those on municipal charges,” said Cirtin. “The commission will now consider building and leasing a temporary facility without financial assistance from the City. We have not budgeted for this expenditure and we will have to determine what the impact would be on the current budget, as well as future budgets.”
In his letter, Mayor Stephens said the city feels unable to enter into any further agreement with Greene County until questions regarding the validity of contacts are decided by the courts.
Sheriff Jim Arnott stopped housing inmates on municipal charges in April 2015. The city later sued saying the county is in violation of a 1997 intergovernmental agreement between both entities over the housing of municipal inmates.
Last Friday’s letter by Stephens says the two sides must continue to find a suitable solution to the jail issue. He asks the commission to join council in asking the court to decide which opinion is correct – rather than treating it as an adversarial action.
Cirtin responded Wednesday by saying “The city had already taken more legal action before the Mayor sent this letter. It is disappointing to us that while City Council was considering our proposal, the city of Springfield was actually ramping up its legal action with additional filings on June 10.”
Both sides in their statements expressed interest in identifying a long-term solution to the jail overcrowding problem that includes all Greene County municipalities.