AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Randall County and the City of Amarillo’s current jail services contract is expiring in 180 days.
Randall County Judge Christy Dyer shared that Randall County and the city have been working together to reach a new agreement, but that contract has not been finalized.
“The city of Amarillo and Randall County have been in lengthy negotiations with a partnership that we’ve had for quite some time since 2009, where Randall County provides the jail services for the city of Amarillo,” said Dyer. ‘During the course of the negotiations, we’ve gotten close, but we’re not quite there with a new contract.”
According to Dyer the notice sent to the City of Amarillo is that the contract expires in 180 days, not that their partnership will.
Dyer praised the City of Amarillo for the work they’ve done in a short time to serve the residents of Amarillo, while dealing with the largest flood in Amarillo’s history shortly after taking office, learning municipal government functions and a lengthy budget workshop.
“Randall County feels completely confident that a new contract will be in place before the expiration of that 180 days,” said Dyer. “We look forward to working with the city of Amarillo and Mayor Stanley on this and many other joint projects.”
Randall County has contracts with several local entities as well as the federal government to house incarcerated individuals in the Randall County jail. When the jail bed rate increases contracts must be renegotiated.
“What we do is we have a company that comes in and they set a fair market value for what they look at every expense that is incurred by Randall County, to be able to house an inmate,” said Dyer. “That’s part of the negotiation federal inmate contract, when that daily bed rate is increased, then we have to go back in and renegotiate the terms and conditions of our contracts with our other entities. This is just one of those steps.”
The Randall County federal inmate contract also requires that no other entity have a more favorable contract.
Amarillo Mayor Cole Stanley shared that the city has been accommodating to all of Randall County’s requests.
“Everything that the judge has asked for we’ve accommodated, and we’ve agreed to,” said Stanley. ‘Originally, we have a $75 per day rate, they increased that to $95 for their federal contract, we agreed to that. So, in our contract, we moved it from 75 to 95. In a meeting, the judge had said most of your bookings cost more because your Class C misdemeanor inmates are in and out, they don’t stay the night. So, their a cost of $275 per inmate to book them and process them. We agreed to put that in the contract.”
Stanley said the city also agreed to cover the medical cost of their inmates.
Stanley continued, “If you run our averages, we have seven inmates per day that go through bookings at $275. You do that times 365 days, that $700,000 Roughly, we agreed to pay $300,000 in additional on top of that because we support our Randall County Sheriff’s Department. We value the relationship we have there. So not only have we tried to accommodate everything that she’s asked for, we’ve also communicated all this.”
According to Stanley, the next steps include requesting a meeting with Judge Dyer, Sheriff Forbis and a commissioner’s member. The city will also bring a council member and staff member to discuss numbers.
“We want to get a face-to-face around the table,” said Stanley. “Why aren’t we able to agree on the numbers that you’ve provided based on your cost for us to be housed inside of your jail? Then what else can we do? What else as a city can we do that’s fair to my taxpayer, and fair to your taxpayer? So, there’s equity within the city limits and within the county to work together so we can continue to be good neighbors and partners.”
Currently, the city of Amarillo does not have a jail, as a way to not duplicate services.
“The city doesn’t have its own jail because we believe as taxpayers that it’s not good to duplicate services,” said Stanley. You don’t need a jail in Potter County, a jail in Randall County and a jail in the city that duplicates that service for the taxpayer.”
If an agreement is not reached the city of Amarillo will explore other options according to Stanley.
“What we need is a good working relationship where we communicate well,” said Stanley. “So if we’re unable to work this out with Randall County, we’ll take the next step of going to other jails that we have options to enter into contract with.”
Stanley said another option would be to consider modifying a structure for Class C misdemeanors, but it is not something the city would want to do unless necessary.
“All we would really need to do is take a Class C misdemeanor,” said Stanley. “This is disorderly conduct. This is DWI, these are class c misdemeanors, where for lack of a better term, it’s a holding tank. We could run this with jailers, and with a few police officers, we wouldn’t have to spin up an entire jail. That would be an option if we get forced to that position. But why would we want to do that when we could contribute to our other jailers that are, you know, right around the city limits?”
Both Dyer and Stanley say that public safety is the number one priority.
“I’m disappointed that the judge has chosen to play politics with public safety,” said Stanley. “So our thing here, our number one priority is public safety and the wellbeing of our officers and our citizens. So, it’s important that whatever we do from here, that remains our priority.”
“Randall County Commissioners Court’s top priority is the safety of the citizens and then to the support all law enforcement, both the Amarillo Police Department and our Randall County Sheriff’s deputies,” said Dyer. “I look forward to this coming to a very happy end.”
Dyer shared she can’t imagine a world where an agreement between Randall County and the City of Amarillo doesn’t happen and looks forward to continuing their partnership.
“I do feel confident that we will have an agreement put in place before the 180 days happens,” said Dyer. The city of the city of Amarillo and Randall County would never leave a great partner high and dry.”