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— Earlier this year, the state Legislature voted to increase fines cities can receive for each citation issued by $15. Now Benton County is looking to capitalize on that increase.

The county jail currently charges municipalities $32.50 per inmate per day, a rate that has not been increased in 19 years, according to Benton County Sheriff Keith Ferguson.

Last Monday members of the county Finance Committee voted to increase the amount cities are charged for housing inmates from $32.50 to $40 per day.

In 2007 the cost to keep an inmate was $37.28 per day. That amount increased to $38.98 per day in 2008. Thus far in 2009, it costs the county $43.02 per day, Justice of the Peace Bobby Hubbard said.

"What has been decided here is our costs have been rising in the jail and it is exceeding what we have been charging," Hubbard said.

The new rates, if approved by the Quorum court later this month, will go into effect Sept. 1. The rate will remain at $40 per inmate throughout 2010, then be adjusted for 2011.

The gradual increases in jail fines should be easier for cities to swallow.

"Why take all off their money (the cities' $15 increase) right off the bat? Let's give the cities a chancetocatchup,"JusticeJames Wozniak said."It will be easier for the cities to swallow if we do not take all that they just got."

News, Pages 5 on 08/12/2009

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