View Full Version : JAIL FEE

07-12-2007, 11:14 PM
City: county should pay for jail themselves

* City says no to county request for criminal justice project funding.

NORTH PORT -- It's another "no" from the City Commission to Sarasota County.

City commissioners presented a united front Monday when they decided, through a consensus, to not approve any of the three options the county gave the city for helping fund criminal justice projects.

The jail in downtown Sarasota was last expanded in the mid-90s, but North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis said the county's current quest is to raise funds to build another jail annex somewhere else in Sarasota County. Lewis said where that jail would be located is "the $100 million question."

On June 22, County Commission Chair Nora Patterson sent a letter to Commission Chair Barbara Gross outlining the three options to raise funds for those projects, including a proposed jail expansion in Sarasota. Longboat Key, the city of Sarasota, Venice and unincorporated areas of the county were also given the same options.

Option one would use infrastructure surtax funding from the four cities in the county -- Sarasota, North Port, Longboat Key and Venice -- as well as unincorporated Sarasota County. The total amount would be 25 percent of the overall costs for the jail and courts. North Port's estimated contribution would be about $9.2 million.

Option two would require a referendum in a countywide election for voters to approve a county general obligation debt funding program. Patterson wrote that the plan was to request voter approval in 2010.

Option three would include some sort of combination of options one and two.

"Since each municipality has indicated its preliminary objection to funding the jail with countywide surtax, the County Commission has requested that each municipality indicate its preference for Option 1, or Option 2, or Option 3," Patterson wrote.

Commissioner Jim Blucher said the county tends to forget that citizens already pay county fees.

"I am going to suggest option four, which is none of the above, and that we pay our bills and they pay theirs,' Blucher said. "I can't see how they complain about us growing too fast, then want us to share in the bills. I just don't understand how we're going to open our hearts and have them build it. I thought that was part of their charter and part of their job."

Commission Chair Barbara Gross referenced a letter from Venice Mayor Fred Hammett, telling the county Venice didn't want to contribute, either.

Commission Vice Chair Fred Tower III said North Port should follow Venice's lead.

"I like Mayor Hammett's letter, and I would like to copy and paste it saying basically the same thing," Tower said. "I agree with Commissioner Blucher, we pay the same amount of taxes and we should not take (money) away from the surtax for things we can do for our town."

You can e-mail Anne Klockenkemper at aklockenkemper@sun-herald.com.


Staff Writer