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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

County may get into probation business

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scott County news

BENTON -- Scott County officials are looking at the possibility of the county getting into the probation business.

Commissioners noted during their regular meeting Tuesday that the 33rd Judicial Court has solicited and received bids for private firms to provide probation services for misdemeanor offenses.

"Can we do that? If we can't, let's have a state law that we can," Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said. "We have to look at every avenue we can to create some funds. We're looking at it as possibly a way to generate some dollars for the county. Instead of giving it to a private firm, get the state to pay that to us, keep the dollars here."

"I haven't seen anything that prohibits a county from doing it," said David A. Dolan, circuit judge for the 33rd Judicial Court.

Dolan said it is done in other places such as in Los Angeles County in California, for example, which has a county probation and parole office.

In addition to generating revenue for the county, having a county employee as the probation officer could be a good thing. Dolan said when local officials have no control over the service provider, they have no control over the quality of services provided.

"We have talked about private probation before," Commissioner Ron McCormick. "We're really just looking at every avenue to bring revenue streams to the county."

Also during the regular County Commission meeting Tuesday commissioners met with State Sen. Rob Mayer, 25th District.

When asked by Mayer what the county would like to see from the legislature, commissioners didn't need to think it over: they said they want the prisoner reimbursement money the county should already be receiving.

Commissioners said state statutes call for the state to reimburse counties $30 per day for prisoners held by the county that are sentenced to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Legislators are not fully funding that reimbursement, however.

"Six years ago we were at $22.50," Burger said. "Then we were rolled back to $20, now we're at $21.25."

While $21.25 is better than $20, the counties were promised last year they would be getting $22.50.

It costs the county $34 per day to house a prisoner in the county jail, Burger said.

Burger said it is frustrating to hear the governor talk about having balanced the budget and deciding what to do with the "extra" money.

"They owe us that money," he said. "They need to give it to the counties."

Burger said whenever the state faces a budget crunch, one of the first places legislators make cuts is in disbursements to the counties. He asked Mayer to remember the next time they are working on the budget that counties are struggling with their budgets as well.

Commissioners also discussed with Mayer the funding crisis faced by 911 centers.

"We're going to be $200,000 short this year on 911," Burger said.

A surcharge on land-line phones is the only revenue source for 911 centers as cellular phones do not have a 911 surcharge. The costs of equipping and staffing 911 centers are rising while revenue for 911 is dropping as people abandon land-lines in favor of cell phones.

Mayer said that voters have twice defeated 911 statewide funding initiatives.

"Everybody just assumes it's going to be there," Burger said.

With the State House Interim Committee to Evaluate the 9-1-1 System having held several public forums, "at least we're talking about it now," Mayer said. "We'll see what happens."

Mayer also said he will see if the daily reimbursement can be raised.

"Those are two things we know we need to look at," he said.