OKANOGAN — Douglas County commissioners are weighing their options concerning the tenuous Chelan County Regional Justice Center partnership, including possibly housing some prisoners at an Okanogan facility.
The current agreement between the partners — Douglas County, Chelan County and city of Wenatchee — is slated to end Dec. 31. In an effort to save money, Douglas County Commissioners sent a proposal in April to the owners of the jail, Chelan County, asking if Douglas County could become bed renters rather than partners.
Commissioner Dale Snyder said the way the partnership is set up, Douglas County pays for 70 beds a day at $73.50 per bed, which comes to $154,350 per month.
“It doesn’t matter how many prisoners we have in there, we’re paying for 70 beds a day,” said Snyder. “The highest monthly average we’ve had so far this year is 50 beds per day. But our normal monthly average has been around 30 beds per day.”
The proposal of renting a bed for $73.50 per day, per prisoner, instead of the flat $154,350 per month, would save Douglas County money in the long run, said Snyder.
Commissioner Ken Stanton said in July that a rental agreement could save the county about $50,000 a month. He also said that having a rental agreement with Chelan County would allow Douglas County to contract with other jails, such as the Corrections Center, a 183-bed facility in Okanogan County.
Okanogan Sheriff Frank Rogers said the jail, which his department oversees, keeps 40 to 50 beds open for contract prisoners and charges $51 per bed per day. But he said that cost may go up in 2010, although no figure has yet been determined.
Stanton and Snyder toured the Okanogan facility Monday and were impressed, Snyder said.
“I think they have a well-run jail,” he said. “And obviously they are doing something right because they are only charging about $50 per bed.”
Not all of the people arrested in Douglas County or found guilty in Douglas County would be housed at the Okanogan jail, he said.
“They don’t want maximum-security prisoners, such as people charged with felonies like murder, rape and child molestation,” Snyder said. “They are not set up for those types of prisoners.”
Rogers said he is under the impression that only prisoners who have gone through the Douglas County court system and have been found guilty would be contracted to serve time in the Okanogan jail.
Snyder said they are just in the preliminary stages of weighing their options. He said the next step is discussing the Okanogan facility with Commissioner Mary Hunt, who was not able to attend Monday’s tour.
“We’re still in the discussion stage at this point,” he said. “And we’re still in discussions with Chelan County, too.”
Michele Mihalovich: 665-1188