Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman said the city was blindsided when the Crawford County Quorum Court decided to consider raising detention center fees at its Oct. 15 meeting.
“I am disappointed the city was not given notice before deciding to put the increase on the October agenda,” Freeman said at Monday night’s city council meeting. “I feel like what city officials have said fell on deaf ears.”
Freeman and other city officials attended a Sept. 17 budget committee where jail costs were discussed. When the quorum court meeting convened and city officials were not present, justices of the peace voted to place the increase on the October agenda.
JP Debbie Atwell will sponsor an ordinance for a $50-a-day rate. Cities are currently charged $10 a meal, or $30 a day if the prisoner is not released, Freeman said.
Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown said the increase is needed because the county can no longer charge municipalities as much for holding prisoners as it once did after a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling.
Freeman said when voters voted to build the 307-bed jail, a one-quarter center operating cost was included.
“That is $1.7 million annually,” he said. “I would like to know where that is going and how that $1.7 million is factored into the $50-a-day rate.”
City clerk/treasurer Phyllis Thomas told the council Monday night the city currently pay about $20,000 to house prisoners at the CCDC. She predicted that figure might become $40,000 to $50,000.
“In the spirit of cooperation this needs to be continued,” Freeman said. “Because, at some point, the county is going to come to use to ask for our cooperation is continuing the county-wide sales tax.”
Freeman said he feels like he is being taken advantage of as a lame-duck mayor. He is not seeking re-election after serving three four-year terms.”
“I have worked hard to build a relationship between the city and county,” Freeman said. “But, this is not the way to do it.”