Gage County officials hope that two contracts approved Wednesday to reserve beds in other jails will ease the burden of transporting inmates there’s no room for in Beatrice.

The County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Washington County, Kan. to reserve 10 beds in the jail for Gage County inmates. The other agreement reserves five additional beds in Dawson County.

Both contracts are for one-year periods and at a rate of $45 per bed, per day, whether or not they are being used.

This amounts to $675 per day, or $246,000 per year to house inmates in the other counties.

Talks of contracting with jails intensified this summer as the number of inmates reached double the Gage County jail’s capacity of around 27.

Due to the high numbers, inmates were being housed at up to seven different counties at one time, causing transportation problems for jail workers.

“The really unfortunate thing through all this is our numbers are not going down,” said County Board Chairman Myron Dorn. “…Those numbers are staying up there. Right now, there’s not a good likelihood that that number is going to start heading down. We don’t see it, unfortunately.”

The board, Sheriff Millard Gustafson and jail workers had several discussions regarding the contracts due to the number of variables in the equation.

The $45 cost per inmate at Washington County is $10 more than the standard rate Gage County previously paid. Officials justified the additional $10 per day because this would reserve the beds for Gage County, as opposed to saving the $10 and hoping the jail has room for Gage County inmates.

Regarding Dawson County, Gage County pays $45 per inmate if there’s a contract or not. The benefit to contracting with the jail, Gustafson said, is that Dawson County guaranteed at least one transport to Gage County per week, meaning there’s less of a chance workers would have to make the roughly 3½ hour drive one way to get inmates for court hearings.

Transportation is not included in the agreement with Washington County.

If Gage County needs to house more than 15 inmates in other counties, Butler County will be the next choice at $45 per inmate per day, with no contract in place.

The board approved the contracts 5-1, with Gary Lytle voting in opposition and Matt Bauman absent.

Lytle said he would have preferred to have the number of reserved beds at each jail switched to 10 at Dawson and 5 in Washington County.

He reasoned that since Washington County will still house inmates at a cheaper rate outside of the contract of beds are available, Gage County would be better off making Dawson County the priority to take advantage of the provided transportation, and taking additional inmates to Washington County outside the contract for a cheaper rate.

“I’m still struggling with the 10 guaranteed beds down in Washington County where we’re agreeing to pay more than we pay at a regular rate,” he said. “I think with the guarantee that we’re going to fill beds, I don’t understand why the price is going to be more. At least with Dawson County, we’re not paying more.”

Board member Terry Jurgens said contracting with Washington County was a good decision since the jail has been good to work with and is closer to Gage County than others being considered.

“Washington County I think works well,” he said. “We’re going to have these prisoners around. The extra $10 a day doesn’t bother me. I say contract it and get them down there.”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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