County Commission OKs new jail rate

Dan Schwartz

AZTEC — San Juan County commissioners on Tuesday approved an increase in the rate charged to local governments to house inmates at the county's detention center.

San Juan County

The commission has set the rate for the past seven years based on a formula and then offered that rate for services at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center to Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield. The county operates the jail. The new rate is $65.14 per inmate per day, which the county also would pay.

Officials from those cities will now consider approving the approximately 7 percent increase – though there appeared to be no opposition in interviews on Tuesday.

“The fact of the matter is it’s a number that goes up and down from year to year,” Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts said. “So that’s one of the things we expect to happen.”

Roberts said the rate is reasonable.

Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein, who described the rate as fair, said the jail runs well. “In order to keep that status, you got to charge appropriate rates,” he said.

Efforts on Tuesday to reach Aztec Mayor Sally Burbridge were unsuccessful. Aztec City Manager Joshua Ray said the city trusts the math the county used to calculate the new rate.

“We are partners in a system that allows us to communicate and agree upon best practices for efficiency and effectiveness,” he said.

The county determines the rate using a formula based on the previous fiscal year’s operating costs compared to how many inmates stayed in the jail that year.

The highest rate was in fiscal year 2014 at $70.13, and it had steadily climbed to that fee over a four-year period. But in fiscal year 2015, the rate dropped to $66.16, and then it dropped to $60.66 this fiscal year.

Commissioners approved the new rate unanimously and with little discussion.

They also unanimously approved spending about $365,000 to replace an old boiler and its control system at the juvenile detention center using bond money.

Commissioners authorized issuing $19 million in bonds for numerous capital projects around the county in February, and some of that money is paying for improvements to the juvenile detention center.

In the Tuesday evening meeting, Juvenile Services Administrator Traci Neff said the equipment the county is replacing was installed in 2002. “So it’s been quite some time,” she said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.