By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
City attorney Martin T. Smith told the board of aldermen on Tuesday that county attorney Joe Montgomery had told him that the board of supervisors had agreed to a proposal by the board of aldermen that the City of Poplarville be charged only $20 per day per prisoner for housing city prisoners in the county prison at Millard.
Smith told the board that the figure would be inserted into what is called an inter-governmental agreement between Poplarville and the county, that will see the City of Poplarville charged for housing prisoners in the county facility at Millard on a per diem basis. Previously, the city didn’t pay anything for the service.
The county moved to force Poplarville to pay the fee after wrestling with a tight 2012-13 county budget, and facing a shortfall in funding for last year’s budget. Attorney General opinions produced by negotiators said the county had the authority to charge for holding city prisoners in the county jail.
The county prison makes up a large portion of the county sheriff’s department budget.
After the agreement is tweaked by attorneys for the county and city, it will be signed by Mayor Billy Spiers and will go into effect. A copy of it will be submitted to the Attorney General’s office in Jackson for information purposes and review.
The board of aldermen had rejected earlier attempts by supervisors to force the city to pay a per diem for holding city prisoners in the county jail, saying that the city already pays county taxes and an additional charge would be what aldermen Bill Winborn and Dr. John A. Grant, Jr., called “double-dipping.”
However, alderman Byron Wells said even if the city had to pay the county a per diem, it would be cheaper than having to build a city jail and house and maintain their own prisoners.
The county first proposed to charge the county $30 per day per prisoner, but in an agreement hammered out by the board of aldermen and proposed to supervisors, the board of aldermen told supervisors that they would pay $30 a day, but would prefer that the board charge only $20 per day per prisoner, the same charged for holding state prisoners.
The county collects $45 per day per prisoner for holding federal prisoners at what is actually a small prison system maintained at Millard in central Pearl River County, run by the sheriff’s department.
Smith told the board that Montgomery told him the board of supervisors was amenable to $20 per day.
Smith said that after the agreement is completely drawn up, Mayor Spiers will sign it, and a copy will go to the AG’s office.
Smith recommended the board rescind the last agreement it adopted on the matter, because it did not have a specific per diem amount, and adopt the revised agreement which specified the $20 per diem. Aldermen unanimously took that action.
Under the agreement the county would be responsible for feeding the city prisoners and the City of Poplarville would be responsible for any medical bills charged to the city inmates.
Aldermen said that research on the issue showed that the per diem charged by the county will cost the city an estimated additional $7,000 to $8,000 annually to its city budget.
After zipping through a 13-item agenda, the board recessed to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20.