Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Will Little Rock cough up more for the jail?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 10:50 AM

County Judge Buddy Villines, in his letter to the county's mayors yesterday, says they are using figures that are "wrong, outdated and irrelevant" in their decision to kick in only 85 percent of what the county wants to house 80 more prisoners in the county jail, and that unless the cities pay the full amount requested, the county will remove the 80 additional beds from its budget.

The jail was built to house 800 prisoners; the county wants to increase the official capacity from 1,130 to 1,210.

Mayors Mark Stodola, Patrick Hays, Gary Fletcher (Jacksonville), Virginia Hillman (Sherwood) and Mike Watson (Maumelle) have offered to pay $544,053 toward the additional beds rather than the $640,000 because the way they figure the jail's needs, the county has overbudgeted. Villines says the cities figure wrong.

Villines was particularly irritated, apparently, over the mayors' statement in their response to the county judge that "the county typically uses budget surpluses for various other county priorities" and that they "should be be contributing to the actual expenditure costs of the Jail, not the budgeted amount." Villines reminded the mayors that the county funded the last expansion of the jail without any contribution from the cities, to the tune of $4.1 million.

Little Rock figures its share at $333,000, or about $58,000 shy of the amount Villines wants. Why is it quibbling over that amount? Especially since it's going to give the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce what amounts to $300,000 next year in allocations for the chamber and the Metro Little Rock Alliance outfit run out of the chamber, dollars whose use we'll never know?

Could be there's a legitimate reason; I've called Stodola and City Manager Bruce Moore to explain.

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