Coos County Commissioners vote in a pay as needed policy for jail beds utilized by Community Corrections starting Dec. 1.
A work session was held early Wednesday morning to discuss what should be done about Community Corrections, a state funded agency, paying for jail beds the county can’t provide due to a shortage of staff.
Since July, Community Corrections has overpaid $33,633 to the county jail for beds that the jail doesn’t have available. On average the state is spending $8,408 a month on services that the county isn’t providing.
This problem isn’t new, Community Corrections has overpaid $509,460 in the past two budget years.
“We can’t just keep taking money from the state for services we’re not providing, its robbery. It’s not right,” Coos County Commissioner John Sweet said.
The Department of Corrections pays $111 per bed per day at the Coos County Jail. One example of how corrections uses these beds is for drug offenders who are up for probation that sometimes need to be held in a jail a bit longer for sobriety treatment. On top of sobriety treatment, community corrections may keep an offender in jail a bit longer to find them clean and sober housing while on probation.
“I would recommend that we start to pay for the beds used, rather than prepaying for guaranteed beds that we’re not able to provide. It would be an act of good faith to change the way we’re doing thing, until we’re back to adequate manning to staff the second pod,” Sweet said.
The county charges the state an upfront cost for these beds, but seeing as they aren’t meeting the requirements the county has decided to charge Community Correction only for the beds it uses starting Dec. 1. The previous upfront payment system will be put back in place once the jail has enough personnel to open more beds in the jail.
“I’m not trying to penalize the jail, but we shouldn’t keep taking money that we’re not providing services for,” Sweet said.
Community Corrections has started moving probation candidates up to Reedsport’s jail to be housed while the terms of their probation are sorted out. Transporting the offenders to Reedsport becomes the responsibility of the parole and probation officers at Community Corrections.
“The goal is to get the staffing so that we can continue our partnership and hold our offenders accountable,” Business Operations Manager for Community Corrections Kelly Church said.
The Coos County Sheriff’s Office has been working diligently to open a second pod in the jail, bring them to 100 beds. The sheriff’s office currently has three deputies in training, along with 15 more going through preliminary testing. Out of those 15, the sheriff’s office expects to find at least two qualified applicant, which would bring their numbers to a point where they can open another pod. It takes 6 people to operate a 50-bed pod of the jail.
The sheriff’s office lost much of its personnel to budget cuts 10 years ago, but has had trouble retaining people because pay for deputies was not competitive with others until recently.
“We got in this position because we were so out of line on our pay scale that we were literally not competitive … Our goal from day one has been to get back to 100 beds, part of that was fixing the salary scale,” Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni said.
Another issue the Sheriff’s Office has had with staffing is training new hires who immediately after their trained get a better offer from another law enforcement agency.
“Part of the reason we’ve ended up short staffed is Oregon State Police took some of my most senior trained people that we had sent to crash reconstruction, which is a very expensive school. Once they got through that, all of a sudden state police went and recruited them,” Zanni said.
Training new deputies to run the jail is a timely process which takes several weeks. All things considered, the sheriff’s office anticipates it will be able to open a second jail pod by March 1.
Once the Jail regains the staff it requires this overspending by the state will no longer be a problem as the request beds will be available.
The state has put the county on notice and is threatening to reduce or stop the funding of beds through Community Corrections if the sheriff's can’t provide them by next June.
Although the state has prepaid for these beds, the sheriff’s office can’t guarantee access to them because the lack of supervised space has forced the jail to retain only the offenders at the greatest risk to public safety. Quite often offenders eligible for probation are not the largest threats to public safety.
COOS BAY — Coos County’s Urban Renewal Agency has made further alterations to its North Bay District’s 2017 plan amendment.
Those changes, created after a contentious Coos County Commission public hearing in August, include the addition of a sunset date and elimination of the current levy tax.
Originally, there were plans to eliminate the sunset date in 2018, but after public outcry the plan was amended again to sunset it 20 years.
The elimination of the levy tax minimally reduces the amount taxpayers will pay on their property taxes, also reducing the amount of money going to the taxing district.
That brings the urban renewal district’s total projected expenditures to $31,395,464, nearly half of what the expenditures would be with the levy.
Last fiscal year, the renewal district received around $100,000 from the levy tax.
Fred Jacquot, director of port development for the Port of Coos Bay, is the project manager for the plan amendment.
One of the main goals of the urban renewal district is to foster economic development, in part by creating infrastructure that makes the area attractive to industries.
Jacquot said one of the plans projects involves fixing the deteriorating Trans Pacific Parkway.
Natalie Ranker was in attendance at the Wednesday open house as well as August’s Commission hearing.
She said people have expressed a desire for the plan to sunset, instead of reinstating it.
“Now you’ve said you’re going ahead with it on a 20-year plan and I don’t feel like majority of people were in favor of that,” Ranker said.
Jacquot said the county will have the final say when enacting the plan.
“You’re correct that there was a lot of opposition in those meetings, but I’m not sure that’s representative of the community as a whole,” Jacquot said.
The county, as well as the other taxing districts, forfeit money that goes to the urban renewal area, but Coos County Commissioner John Sweet said that’s a small price to pay for economic development. Sweet said the county is giving up around $12,000 each year.
Jacquot estimated that consulting for the plan amendment costed around $50,000 and another $2,500 to implement the changes after the county’s public hearing.
During the open house, the district’s consultant Elaine Howard explained where the $20 million in expected expenditures would be coming from.
She said the money comes from the taxes paid off of the growth in the urban renewal area.
“The way those numbers are actually received by the assessor is by spreading that out over every property tax bill in the county, but again it doesn’t mean your property taxes go up,” Howard said.
Even if the renewal agency was eliminated, resident’s property taxes wouldn’t go down.
Coos Bay resident Charles Reid wanted to know how the district’s return on investment has been calculated since it was formed in 1986.
“Given the number of years, would you say that is a reason to be excited?” Reid said of the handful of projects the district has helped fund.
Jacquot said there are very few undeveloped sites left for deep-draft navigation and maritime industrial terminals and the North Spit is one of them.
The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 30 at 1:30 p.m. in the Owens Building.