Jail consultant to give report within 60 days

Commissioners this week approved a contract with a jail consultant who will begin work immediately to assess the situation at the county detention center.

As expected, at the Monday, Oct. 1 commission administrative session, the service contract with consultant Bill Garnos was approved by unanimous vote. The contract outlines payment to Garnos not to exceed $7,860. The breakdown of payment estimates about 88 hours of work at $85 per hour, plus incidental costs and mileage expenses for four visits to Platte City.

 Bill Garnos

Bill Garnos

According to the contract document, Garnos will review past jail studies and projections, review current trends in the county’s criminal justice system, analyze the county’s inmate population trends, project future inmate population and jail capacity requirements, review alternatives to incarceration and give a final report to commissioners, all within 60 days.

Garnos said he had already read through the 2014 jail committee report and would read the original 2013 Goldberg Group Architects study as well as more recent studies conducted by TrainorHL.

Presiding commissioner Ron Schieber said reviewing potential alternatives to incarceration does not imply commissioners are trying to insert themselves into making law enforcement and judicial decisions.

“We’re not the ones that determine sentencing and we do not want to influence how folks are sentenced; we know that’s not how the criminal justice system works,” Schieber said. “We believe the experts are the sheriff’s department, the prosecutor’s office and our judges, but we’re very pleased we’re going to get a third-party look at that because I think it’s important as we move forward with that we have everyone involved in what can be done to make sure we’re using best practices.”

Garnos said all the communities he has worked in are looking for ways to handle similar problems, and he intends to take an objective look at all options and see what fits best for Platte County. He likened running a jail facility to running a hotel where the management has no control over how long a guest might stay or how many unexpected guests might turn up in the future.

“I recognize that the chances that I am going to be able to come up with something that’s going to magically make a large portion of your inmate population disappear and therefore you have no facility problems is unlikely,” Garnos said.

This week (starting Oct. 1) the detention center started off with 180 inmates in the 180-bed facility. Of those, 14 of those inmates are Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees. Commissioners reported that although it would seem 180 inmates in a 180-bed facility would be a perfect fit, 17 inmates are required to sleep on the floor due to federal separation requirements.

Garnos, a nationally-recognized jail consultant, gave a presentation on his services to the commissioners last month. He also serves as the mayor of Gladstone.

Schieber said commissioners are still waiting on information about renovating the futures area — the basement of the current jail — into usable space.

Also at the meeting, the commissioners briefly addressed the change of ownership at Zona Rosa, stating that this situation has given rise to another problem for the county. Schieber declined further comment about this situation, stating the county’s attorneys have said any legal negotiations should remain confidential, for now.

Previous owner Olshan Properties of New York defaulted on the mortgage earlier this year and recently the property reverted to bank ownership via deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Other commission actions include approval of a vacation petition for an alleyway in New Market. While many people believe New Market is an incorporated village, it is not. In the last decade, director of planning and zoning Daniel Erickson said several vacations have been approved. Often, property owners learned that their properties were divided by platted but never-installed streets and alleyways only when renovating existing buildings.

Commissioners also approved more than $160,000 in grant funding from the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety and Traffic Division for various programs. The Platte County Sheriff’s Office will receive funding assistance for hazardous moving violation, DWI and safety equipment enforcement in the form of overtime and benefits pay for deputies, as well as additional training.