Jail costs divided to reach interlocal pact


The contract to house local inmates out of town until a jail can be built has delayed this year’s city-county interlocal agreement discussions, but a compromise may have been reached.

The county jail is outdated and since fall of 2012 has not been used solely as a temporary holding facility, so inmates are transported to the Glasgow detention center.

On Tuesday Councilman Mark Ahner told the Miles City Council that he and Mayor Butch Grenz were meeting with the Custer County Commissioners on the agreement that day.

Before, city prisoners were considered to be those arrested by city officers, but the state has made it clear that city prisoners are those who are arrested on city ordinances. 

It is rare for anyone to be arrested on ordinances, because a person usually is ticketed for a violation. City violations deal with problems like barking dogs and open container laws, while state violations include driving under the influence, theft, assault and murder. 

While state statute is clear on the county bearing the whole brunt of the cost of incarcerations (on state violations) at a county jail, it doesn’t address contracted detention centers.

City and county officials decided that if it isn’t clear to them and it isn’t addressed in statute, they could ask for an attorney general opinion, but the new county jail may be built by the time the opinion is issued, if one is issued at all. 

So they came to a consensus.

The city has contributed $14,600 to help with the inmate transfer and detention costs and will pay another $6,000 for the rest of this fiscal year (ending June 30). Then the city will pay $9,000 a year until the new jail is built. 

The estimated cost for housing inmates out of district is $240,000 per year.

Once the new jail is operating, the city will not pay for booking and detention unless someone is booked or held on a city ordinance violation.

Another change in the interlocal agreement is the unmetered water at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds.

Ahner said the city had been over-billing the county for unmetered water for at least 10 years. 

The city had been charging the county $3,900 a year for the unmetered water and probably should have billed the county $1,000 to $1,200 a year, he said.

The city proposed it waive the costs for the next three years. The county wanted the city to go back 10 years but agreed to three.

He suggested the Finance Committee meet next week, review the agreement and make a recommendation to be acted upon at the Jan. 28 council meeting. It has already been accepted by commissioners.