Proposed fees and increasing fines top Quorum Court agenda

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)   -- "The jail and sheriff's office is almost 7 million dollars in one year," said Craighead County Sheriff, Jack McCann.

McCann says part of those millions of dollars in maintenance and operating costs each year at the jail could soon be offset.  At Tuesday night's meeting, Quorum Court members voted  to increase the fines for convictions in Craighead County.  It's an increase from 5 dollars to a 20 dollar additional fine for convictions.

"We're looking in the neighborhood, somewhere between 300-400 thousand dollars next that will help," said McCann.

McCann says his jail, like many around Arkansas, needs more space, especially to house women facing misdemeanor charges.

"Right now, we're looking into expanding for females.   The cost has been an issue so hopefully with this revenue source we can do it sooner," said McCann.  McCann says the fine increase will go into effect July 1st.  He says he believes many counties across Arkansas will take the same steps to help offset the cost of one of the biggest expenses for any county.

"Every county now, especially with the economy like it is,  is scratching for every dollar.   This will be a major plus for this county and any county in the state," said McCann.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, residents living in some volunteer fire districts in Craighead County may soon be paying more for fire protection.  In a proposed ordinance, the Philadelphia, Southridge, Valley View and Brookland  fire districts will raise fees.  For example, in the proposed ordinance, residence fees would be 75-dollars in each of those districts.  Right now, they vary from 30 dollars to 55 dollars.  Danny Turner, a spokesman for the county fire districts, says the main reason they want to do this is because the cost of just about everything needed to fight fires is costing more.

"With the cost of trucks going up 10-15 thousand dollars a year, and fire equipment is just going up unbelievably, it's just time that we looked at our budgets and decided to come back to the Quorum Courts and the people and ask for a fee increase," said Turner.

Turner says there will be three readings.  The proposed ordinance was read for the first time Tuesday night.  Turner says if it does pass, people may start paying more by 2010 and the departments would see the money in 2011.

City leaders say there will be public hearings in the future to discuss the possibility of fee increases.

Region 8 news will follow this story and bring you updates and information about future meetings.

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