Proposed fees end agreement with city over gun range useBy:
Tim Ryan [email protected]
Shawano County is proposing billing the city for housing municipal court inmates at the jail, ending an agreement that allowed the sheriff’s department to use the city’s gun range in lieu of payment.
“This has been a bad deal for the county for quite some time and it needed to be changed,” Sheriff Adam Bieber said.
The agreement had been forged between former Sheriff Randy Wright and then-police chief Ed Whealon and was adopted through a resolution by the County Board.
Bieber said Wright didn’t realize what it would cost to house those inmates.
According to jail records, it cost the county $28,200 to house those inmates during the first full year of the agreement in 2013, and hit a high of $48,250 in 2016.
The amount for 2018 was $28,700.
The agreement was terminated after the county informed the city earlier this year that it wanted to charge for housing municipal inmates.
“The city banned us from using (the gun range) when we notified them we had to start charging,” Bieber said. “The city was notified early this year that we were planning on ending that agreement and that’s when we were notified that we were then kicked out of the city gun range.”
Bieber said there had been talk about ending the agreement for some time.
“The jail is not fully funded by the County Board,” he said. “We have to rent out beds to make budget. We were having issues renting out bed space because our jail was very full.”
Bieber said he wanted to make sure the county was being treated fairly and that the agreement struck by Wright and Whealon wasn’t a fair trade-off.
“When I made that decision it, the city said, ‘Well, you can no longer use our city firearm range.’”
Even though the fees have not yet been implemented, the sheriff’s department will begin using a private shooting range, the Shawano Gun Club in Wescott, for its training starting in June at a cost of $1,000 a year.
City Administrator Eddie Sheppard said the agreement covering housing municipal inmates and the gun range had gone out of date with the decision to charge the city for housing the inmates.
“When we were informed that we were now going to be charged for the overnight stays, our position was that that agreement is no longer active and then we were informed they were already looking for another place, anyway.” Sheppard said.
The fees were originally expected to go into effect last month, but, according to Bieber, the city expressed concerns about the impact on its 2019 budget, which did not account for those fees, and the implementation date was pushed back to Jan. 1 of next year.
Sheppard said the city was willing to reciprocate by extending use of the gun range until the start of next year.
“They had pushed this until the first of the year and our response was we would do the same with the range and if there’s anything to be worked out later potentially we could go back to using the range as a shared facility,” he said.
Sheppard said the decision regarding the gun range was not “reactionary” and he disagreed with Bieber’s description of the county being “banned” from its use.
“That’s how the arrangement was set up,” he said. “I would say it was just part of the arrangement. Our hope on our end was that ultimately there could be a new agreement that could satisfy both parties’ needs.”
Sheppard said the city was approached several months ago about the proposed new fee.
The city appeared at the public safety meeting last month to request a delay.
“Obviously we didn’t anticipate that for this year,” Sheppard said. “We have to get on a future agenda to discuss the overall impact of that to the city and the merits of it in general.”
Minutes from last month’s public safety meeting show that the committee determined a closed session discussion should be held before any further meetings with the city.
That discussion was held Wednesday, after which Bieber was given authority to continue negotiating with the city.
Sheppard said the Common Council hasn’t addressed the jail fees issue and couldn’t speak to what the city’s position is on the jail fees.
However, he said, in addition to the impact on the budget, “there’s some concern about how that’s going to impact how we do our municipal court. We certainly have concerns about it.”
Sheppard said the city and the county share a lot of services.
“We would think that there could be a way to come up with some arrangement, some agreement that would help both of us in this instance without having to necessarily pay additional fees to continue doing it the way we’re doing it,” Sheppard said. “But we don’t know that. We’re in the process of negotiating.”
Sheppard said the city has had some good dialogue with the public safety committee and the sheriff’s office on the issue.
“We’re thankful that they’ve delayed the implementation for some time so we can continue to discuss it now and through budget season so we can see how that’s going to impact the city,” he said.
Sheppard said these kinds of fees are something other counties have implemented as a means of increasing revenue and funding services.
“It’s something that a lot of counties are starting to look at,” he said.
State statutes allow for counties to charge other entities, including tribes and municipalities, for use of the county jail to incarcerate their prisoners, as well as for their medical costs.
The fees would apply only to inmates incarcerated for municipal violations, not anyone arrested in the city for state or federal crimes.
According to Police Chief Dan Mauel, people are not sent to jail for a municipal citation by itself.
However, if the person does not pay the fine imposed by the municipal court, the judge can sign a warrant, or an arrest and commitment order, after which the person then can be arrested and lodged in county jail.
The time spent in jail would depend on the amount owed.
Bieber said it is costing taxpayers money to house those inmates and the city still isn’t getting its municipal fines paid.
“The city has other options than locking them up,” he said. “If they want to continue to give their judge the option of locking people up, we want them to take on the responsibility and actually pay for those beds.”
Bieber says the city has other options for collecting unpaid fines, including using tax collection procedures.
“What’s happening is, if somebody doesn’t pay a speeding fine or a seatbelt fine, the judge will sentence them to jail for three, four, five days and it’s costing the costing the county $50 a day to house that person, plus medical costs,” Bieber said. “So now the city’s out their money and they’re not getting paid their fine, and then the taxpayers are paying for that person to sit in jail for a non-criminal offense.”
The municipal court is a joint effort between Shawano and Bonduel. However. Bieber said, the impact on Bonduel is minimal.
“Bonduel doesn’t really house many inmates,” he said. “I think they’ve had like one bed here.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Cost of housing municipal prisoners, according to Shawano County Jail records:
• 2012 – 59 beds = $2,950 (Partial year, October 2012 to December 2012)
• 2013 – 564 beds = $28,200
• 2014 – 366 beds = $18,300
• 2015 — 500 beds = $25,000
• 2016 — 965 beds = $48,250
• 2017 — 835 beds = $41,750
• 2018 — 574 beds = $28,700