SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Greene County commissioners announced Tuesday they want the City of Springfield to give them some cash to help fix the jail overcrowding problem.
City and county leaders have been squabbling over this issue for about a year now.
In 1997, the city and county entered into an agreement to construct and operate the jail using the proceeds of a law enforcement sales tax.
Sheriff Jim Arnott stopped accepting municipal inmates in April 2015, and the city sued him a few months later alleging he was breaking the agreement. Arnott countered with claims of his own.
Last month, the city approved a plan to ship municipal inmates to Taney and Miller counties.
Commissioners asked the council Tuesday to fork over $1 million annually over the next three years to help build a temporary jail structure.
“This is all we have,” said Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin. “I mean there will be no more proposals, we don’t have anything else to offer except this.”
City and county leaders admit they are almost out of ideas. At times Tuesday, interactions between Cirtin and council members grew tense.
“What the commission and the sheriff has attempted to do is put together a very simple, there’s only like three points in that, 3 or 4 points,” Cirtin said. “[It’s] very simple, they do have the money, they do utilize the jail, the criminal justice system.”
Springfield makes up 58 percent of Greene County’s population, which means in theory, 348 of the 601 current beds should be available for folks picked up by Springfield police officers. However, the Greene County jail is currently housing 446 people who were arrested in the city.
“Are we asking the city of Springfield to provide a lion’s share of the cost, yes we are,” Cirtin said. “We need their assistance to solve this problem.”
As a result of the overcrowding, both the sheriff and Springfield officers are sending inmates to other counties.
The county commission wants to build a 100 bed temporary facility just north of the courthouse and current jail. If the city forks over the $1 million annually to help build it, then Sheriff Arnott will reserve a minimum of 20 beds in the facility for municipal inmates.
“It depends on what your priorities are,” said City Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky. ”If your priorities are public safety, then you can find the money to do it. And to me public safety is a high priority.”
Fulnecky said she supports the plan, but a few council members did not seem convinced. Cirtin said he knows he only needs to sway five members to get the council to approve the joint governmental agreement needed to build the temporary structure.
“All we’re doing is trying to make neighborhoods safe by being able to manage a jail population the way the citizens want us to,” Cirtin said.
Several council members who appeared opposed to the plan today elected to not go on camera, providing this statement to KOLR10 News instead:
“The city council appreciates this substantive proposal and certainly shares the common goal of addressing challenges in our criminal justice system. The council will weigh this proposal in comparison to the short-term jail solution recently approved and scheduled to be implemented may 31.”
If the joint governmental agreement is approved by the council, the temporary facility would take 4 months to build.