Government & Politics

‘We’re in trouble’: With deadline to leave county jail nearing, KC officials seek help

Kansas City’s contract to rent 275 beds at the Regional Correctional Center (right) ends June 25.
Kansas City’s contract to rent 275 beds at the Regional Correctional Center (right) ends June 25. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Kansas City Council members voted Thursday to request proposals from consulting firms on ideas for a new corrections center.

The resolution, which passed passed 10-0, came a day after a council members balked at a proposal from city staff to award a $300,000 no-bid contract to Archetype Design Group for design and consulting services on jail solutions.

Kansas City currently houses municipal inmates and Kansas City Police Department detainees at a downtown facility owned by Jackson County and adjacent to the county’s jail. But county officials decided last year to boot the city rather than renew its lease for 275 beds.

The city faces a June 25 deadline to vacate. Faced with a steep drop-off in bed space after June, city officials are weighing how to proceed on finding new spots for inmates.

In the short term, it’s planning to rent 110 beds — 85 for municipal inmates and 25 for KCPD detainees — at the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change and 50 beds at the Johnson County, Missouri, jail for convicted offenders.

The council was told it wasn’t enough.

“We’re in trouble. We have 25 beds,” said Kansas City Police Maj. Doug Niemeier said at a committee hearing Wednesday. “That’s it. In this whole deal, we get 25 beds, so when citizens call and they say, ‘I have a problem,’ we have 25 beds.”

Niemeier’s comments came during a long committee discussion over the proposed contract with Archetype where he lauded the short term solution but reminded council members it was not a perfect fix. Some committee members argued that it should have been put out to a competitive bid instead of being offered to one firm. Others worried the city was moving forward too quickly to build a new city jail and wanted more options.

The committee decided to hold the contract and instead pursue Thursday’s resolution to solicit firms’ bids.

Councilmen Quinton Lucas, 3rd District at-large, Jermaine Reed, 3rd District, and Scott Taylor, 6th District at-large, were absent Thursday. All other council members and Mayor Sly James voted for the resolution.

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Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.

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