WENATCHEE — It may soon cost more to house inmates in Chelan County’s jail.

The Chelan County Regional Justice Center has been struggling with the cost of upkeep for a number of years with little to no change in its rates, said Nicole Thompson, Chelan County jail business manager. The jail also needs to end the cycle of taking out loans each year to cover its budget, Jail Director Chris Sharp said.

“The jail has twice borrowed from the county, once over $1 million, to supplement the budget, over a one-, two-, or three-year period of time,” Sharp said.

Last year, the jail increased its daily bed-day rate from $96 to $120.5 per inmate, per day, for the agencies that use it, according to news sources. The new pay structure would be a different model, Thompson said.

The regional justice center is paid through contracts with Chelan County and cities like Wenatchee and Cashmere. The city of Wenatchee paid the jail $1,715,318 for its use in the 2019 to 2020 budget cycle, according to the 2020 Chelan County budget.

The regional justice center now plans for each agency to pay a yearly fee based on how many inmates that agency booked over a 12-month period, Thompson said. In addition, they will pay a daily use fee per inmate that will be less than the current bed-day rate.

The base fee is based on 30% of the cost to keep the doors open, lights on, water running and staff adequately, Sharp said.

Jail staff declined to say how much it could cost per agency because the budget is not finalized, Sharp said. But staff did provide verbal estimates to the agencies they’ve already discussed the changes with.

“The entities are probably going, ‘Eh, sticker shock,’” Sharp said. “That was a comment that was used towards us.”

The jail has been going through quite a few changes in the past few years, Sharp said, including starting a K-9 program, adding screening technology for inmates getting booked.

“The county commissioners have footed the bill. They haven’t asked any of the user agencies to foot the bill for any of the enhancements that we have done,” he said. “And that is not incorporated into the new billing method.”

The new budget covers just the cost of housing inmates, Sharp said. They are asking user agencies to pay for the cost of maintaining the facility’s day-to-day operations.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information. The bed day rate for the jail went from $96 to $120.5 in 2019. 

Tony Buhr: 664-7123

buhr@wenatcheeworld.com or

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