County Heads To Court Over Jail Fees

By: Jennfier Bocchieri Email
By: Jennfier Bocchieri Email

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A battle over more than $3 million in delinquent jail fees could have the county and other local cities heading to court.

Since Sedgwick County started charging for its jail space in January, eight cities, including Wichita, Haysville and Park City, have racked up unpaid bills. Now the county is confident a judge will force them to pay up.

"Almost every county in the state of Kansas that has over 35,000 people in their county charges their cities so this is not something that is not happening in other parts of the state," said County Commissioner Tom Winters.

With the jail's budget set to triple over the next 20 years, county commissioners decided to start charging for the space to force cities to be more careful about using it thus cutting costs and overcrowding.

But most cities balked at the new billing system. The cities say not only do they not have control over who goes to jail but the county doesn't have the legal right to charge them. And they say it's basically double taxation for their residents. The cities plan to continue their fight against the fees in the legal arena.

"I have to object. I have to say something otherwise it looks as though we just accept this and they know we don't because we don't pay it," said Park City Mayor Dee Stuart.

While a judge could decide on the jail fee fight within a few months, appeals could mean it'll be more than a year before the legal battle is finally settled.

County Commissioners are set to vote on how to proceed on Wednesday.

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