Mississippi County weighing options to collect fees from Blytheville

NEW INFORMATION: The Mississippi County Quorum Court passed a resolution Tuesday night to proceed with legal action against the city of Blytheville for unpaid jail fees.
The Quorum Court voted 11 to one proceed in order to recoup the more than $600,000 Blytheville owes the county.

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The Mississippi County Quorum Court is weighing options on how to collect the jail fee owed to the county by the city of Blytheville.

Quorum Court Police, Fire and Safety committee member Ken Kennemore said Blytheville owes Mississippi County $490,000.  "The county with almost half a million dollars in jail fees, we're running a tight budget right now. The only way we made our budget last year is because of the diligence of our elected officials who kept the expenses in their offices down."

"If this keeps going with Blytheville, it could be to the point that we have to shut our jail down, and then it's a disservice to the rest of the cities in our county who send their prisoners there."

Osceola is the only city in Mississippi County that houses its prisoners. The rest of the prisoners are taken to Mississippi County Law Enforcement Center in Luxora, AR.

The debt owed to Mississippi County is in addition to the $3.2 million Blytheville owes the Internal Revenue Service.  Blytheville residents will vote March 13 whether to implement a 1-cent sales tax to pay off the IRS debt.

Blytheville mayor James Sanders said the city always intended to get the debt settled. "Earlier in the year the first thing we did was sit down and talk with (Mississippi County Judge Randy Carney), and it was our intent to go ahead and remedy the situation that was involved."

Justice Kennemore said the options justices are considering to collect the debt include a payment plan where a portion of city court fines are given to Mississippi County, and suing Blytheville for control of the municipal court system.  "Going to court would be the last option. We don't want to do that unless we have no other alternative."

Mayor Sanders said before he learned of the IRS debt, he and Judge Carney met and agreed on a payment plan which consisted of a $10,000 a month payment and check swapping arrangement for the funds the Blytheville generated from housing the E911 program for Mississippi County.

"I appreciate the consideration of the council. The consideration they've had with us already to allow us to continue what we've been doing and to allow us an opportunity to try to stand up," Mayor Sanders said.

Mayor Sanders also said he is looking for other options to save money for the city. "We've even gotten to the point of discussing some things with the jail standards, with an attempt to look at the facility that we have," Mayor Sanders said. "To see if it can be a cost saving opportunity for us."

The Quorum Court Police, Fire and Safety committee plans to meet with Judge Carney and Mayor Sanders next week to figure out how to get the debt settled.

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