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Buckley council approves two jail contracts, motion to transfer $200,000 to general fund dies in tie vote

Buckley's city council voted in two jail contracts at last night's regular council meeting, showing that—for the time being at least—the city is looking ahead with the Buckley Jail's future in mind.

Police Chief James Arsanto presented the council with on-call (no guaranteed bed space) contracts with the city of Federal Way and the state Department of Corrections, at a gain of $57 and $60, respectively, per bed per night.

Federal Way was one of two cities to drop business with the Buckley Jail and contract with the King County SCORES facility.

Arsanto cautioned that a contract with Federal Way didn't necessarily mean the Jail would see prisoners from Federal Way.

"It looks like Federal Way's been going back to all the cities it contracted with in case of overflow," he said, adding that SCORES was presently looking at 300 occupied beds in a 1,000-bed facility.

"I do expect DOC will send us some prisoners, though."

A fund transfer on the agenda tangentially related to the jail issue failed on a 3-3 tie vote; Councilman Randy Reed was excused absent, and state law prevents the mayor from breaking a tie when it comes to votes on money.

With the city facing a potential $200,000 deficit at the end of the year, City Administrator Dave Schmidt drafted a bill that would allow a $200,000 transfer to the general fund split evenly between the Police and Fire equipment reserves.

Such a transfer would ensure the city could make payroll, especially considering tax revenue probably wouldn't come in until October, Schmidt said.

Councilwoman Cristi Boyle Barrett disagreed with the motion to authorize the fund transfer, surmising the intent to be to reimburse the reserve funds from a future sale of the city gas utility—if that sale even proved possible. It was a short term fix for a long term problem, she said.

"The choice to borrow reserves to continue to operate city services… I think you're not going to make it in the long run," she said. "Yes it may be better to house (prisoner) citizens at home—better for our officers' transport and better for making court dates—but not at the expense of our reserve funds."

Councilman Bryan Howard countered that the reserve funds may not have been able to accrue had it not been for jail and dispatch services, and likened the debate to a chicken-and-egg discussion.

But not transferring the money meant risking city jobs, he said.

"That point, specifically, I take issue with," Boyle Barrett said. "If you balance the budget with reserve funds… we may have to lose an officer."

"But it doesn't necessarily have to be a patrol position," Howard said.

"It sounds like no matter which direction we go in right now, we're talking about people's jobs," Councilman James Montgomery said.

Mayor Pat Johnson brought the discussion back on topic shortly before the tie vote.

Now the city's staff is tasked with finding another path to balancing the budget, Schmidt said.

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