‘Answers’ raise more questions


Jim Heinicke, the researcher hired by Marion County Citizens for a Better Way, goes over the results of his review of five county jails in central Kansas. Patty Decker / Free Press.

The second round of meetings held Monday in Hillsboro on a proposed $8.65 million jail in Marion County was to answer questions raised from the first set of public meetings. Instead, the answers prompted even more questions.

Jailcharts5A.jpg More than 75 people filled the Senior Center to learn more about the 26,600-square-foot facility presented by Tony Rangel, an architect with Law/Kingdon, Inc. of Wichita, the firm hired by the county commissioners to look into the feasibility of a new jail.

Rangel said he was answering questions asked by Marion County residents at the first three meetings held earlier this month at Peabody, Marion and Hillsboro.

?These questions and answers will also be posted on the county Web site,? he said, ?hopefully as early as Tuesday (Oct. 21).?

When asked about county sales tax figures, Rangel said the counties with the highest sales tax (not calculating in what the state sales tax is) included Sherman at 2.25 percent and Cheyenne, Harvey, Republic, Russell and Wichita at 2 percent.

Marion was at 0.75 percent and with the added one-cent sales tax would have put it in line with Gove County and just above Anderson, Cherokee, Ford and Franklin counties at 1.75 percent.

However, later in the meeting, it was pointed out to Rangel that in Marion County the sales tax is 1 percent and not 0.75 percent, thus putting it in the higher bracket with Wichita, Harvey and others in the 2 percent range.

Rangel looked to County Clerk Carol Maggard, who was at the meeting along with Commissioners Dan Holub, Randy Dallke and Chair Bob Hein. After checking some paperwork with Maggard, he said he was incorrect and that Marion County was at 1 percent.

Other questions Rangel answered involved operating costs and how the new jail would more than pay for itself with the pay-to-stay prisoners.

In fact, Rangel said housing women prisoners was getting harder in some of the other counties and it would be an opportunity for the county to house these types of inmates.

When asked about the average stay for Marion County prisoners, Rangel said he still had not received enough information from the county to answer.

One man wondered about the information provided at Monday night?s meeting by Jim Heinicke, former city manager in Newton and a hired consultant for a local group known as Marion County Citizens for a Better Way, regarding comparative jail statistics from Butler, Chase, Rice, Sumner and Harvey counties.

?Why do the statistics on this sheet differ from what you (Rangel) are presenting??

Rangel said he was unaware of what was being looked at.

Heinicke was then asked to talk about the figures he presented.

?I have only spent the last two weeks researching this information,? Heinicke said. ?But this is a small county and the proposal is risky.?

He spoke about the range of operating costs, which differed from Rangel?s figures.

It was after hearing from Heinicke that Rangel said he would need to review the information presented to him.

Others in attendance asked questions about how realistic it is to use amounts based on full occupancy of the jail when in the other counties, the occupancy is at 50 percent or less.

?It appears Chase County is one of the few keeping a high occupancy rate,? one person said.

Becker was asked his opinion about the issues.

He said there are options available?whether it be changes in legislation or looking at alternate ways to handle lesser crimes.

?We have 20 in jail, but five are charged with child crimes and in no way are they getting out,? he said.

?But that?s not to say we can?t consider other ways to monitor people and keep them out of the facility.?

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