Olathe & southwest Joco

Budget shortfall prompts county to consider closing a detention center

Updated: 2013-11-19T21:21:54Z


Special to The Star

The Johnson County Commission last week flirted with the idea of closing one of the county’s two detention facilities.

“It seems to me we need to take a real hard look at whether we can afford to operate two different facilities,” said Commission Chairman Ed Eilert, as the commission debated a $4 million bailout to cover a shortfall in the sheriff’s budget for 2013.

The sheriff’s budget ended up short for this year primarily because of increases in medical costs at the two facilities and for overtime pay resulting from staff cutbacks from the recession. The county expanded the facilities at the jail by adding 554 beds to the New Century Adult Detention Center near Gardner and remodeling the Olathe building into a Central Booking facility.

But the extra space has so far not been completely filled, leading some commissioners to question whether the county can afford both.

Sheriff Frank Denning said that closing one facility wouldn’t be as easy as it might seem.

In doing so, the sheriff’s department would have to cut services that cities rely on, such as transporting inmates, he said.

Commissioners also debated whether money to pay for the shortage should come from the Economic Development capital project fund, which comes from the county’s portion of a quarter-cent sales tax levied from 2006-2008. That tax was originally voted on as a way to help public education, said Ed Peterson.

The commission eventually voted to pay the shortfall with public safety tax money and some general fund reserves instead of the economic development fund.

In other news, the Johnson County Airport Commission has hired Colin McKee as its new aviation director. McKee will take over for Lee Metcalfe, who is retiring Nov. 30 after 25 years as director. McKee is currently deputy director.

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