The jail committee is one member lighter for the time being with the announcement June 30 of Don Breckon’s resignation. The former Park University president cited health concerns for his decision, according to committee chair Jim Roberts. “He shared with me some of the health concerns he’s facing, and I agreed with him that he needs to focus on that,” Roberts said. Roberts said First District Commissioner Beverlee Roper would appoint someone to fill Breckon’s place, likely within a week. The committee was formed in early June to look at one-, five- and 10-year projections for growth and see if members could come to a conclusion on how to address the needs for expanded justice services. Currently the detention center — which has about 150 beds — is nearly full, due to a federal mandate that says once a jail is at 85 percent capacity fits that description. The detention center hit a population high of 170 inmates last year, which prompted the County to focus attention on the problem. Roberts started off this week’s meeting with a rebuke for committee members who he said were not sharing information with the entire group. On June 16, after a tour of the jail, Roberts got into a heated dispute with several other members of the committee, over what appeared to be scheduling disputes and miscommunications. This week, the committee heard from Joseph Weber of Weber and Associates and Thomas “Artie” Lucas of the Goldberg Group, authors of a jail feasibility study completed last year. The men were asked to address the committee on questions members had with the data used for the study, the process and the ultimate findings. “We’re not here to promote a particular viewpoint,” Weber said. One of the first questions involved a potential contract with the City of Kansas City to house prisoners for payment, a subject Sheriff Mark Owen originally brought. Roberts said he and committee member Dagmar Wood would meet with Owen and Kansas City officials to gather information on this proposal. They would later bring this data back to the committee for discussion on another day. Wood questioned numbers in the report that showed an increase of the average length of stay of prisoners, along with other apparent discrepancies in the numbers. The population projection numbers from the Twin Creeks area west of Highway 169 and south of Interstate 435 and in other development areas in the County were also still a point of contention. County Commissioners advised the committee members at their first meeting that the County was potentially on the cusp of an enormous population boom fueled by development within Kansas City. Last week, the committee hosted City of Kansas City planner Kyle Elliott, who said calculation of those numbers are in terms of capacity, and that the area has the capacity of becoming home to up to 130,000 people in the next 20-30 years. The City’s more conservative estimate is more like 85-90,000 residents, spread over both Clay and Platte counties. Which set of numbers was used to calculate the jail report was up for debate. Owen admitted the County received population estimates that varied wildly.
Read the whole story in this week's issue of The Citizen.