South Tucson/Pima County jail debt issue resolved

2013-08-31T00:00:00Z South Tucson/Pima County jail debt issue resolvedBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Pima County and South Tucson officials have struck a long-term deal to finally pay off the city’s $1.9 million in delinquent jail fees and interest.

The tentative agreement would write down the amount the city owes to the county to $1.1 million, with South Tucson giving the dounty a $150,000 down payment and then paying off the rest over the next decade.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who has been working with South Tucson on the jail debt issues since the late ‘90s, is optimistic.

“I believe they are really making an earnest effort to deal with the problem,” Huckelberry said.

Luis Gonzales, the interim city manager for South Tucson, said finding a repayment option for the jail debt was his top priority when he took  the post in June.

The agreement, currently under review  by the Pima County Attorney, is set to go before the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the South Tucson City Council in the coming weeks.

The square-mile city has long struggled with the debt it owes to the county for those arrested by the police department on misdemeanor charges who are housed at the county jail.

In April of this year, South Tucson owed the county more than $1.344 million in principal, dating to 2007, plus $562,973 in interest, according to county records.

Back in 2009, it owed the county roughly $500,000. In 2001, the city of South Tucson was owed $146,434.

The city was credited $550,000 against its jail debts back in 2000, when the county bought the existing Jackson Employment Center and Edward Lindsey Adult Learning Center from the city and another $220,000 in 2008 when the county bought land for a new employment center.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, is funded with county general fund monies and the cost from housing South Tucson residents not paid by the city must be made up by county taxpayers.

The county has agreements with various cities and town to reimburse the county for the cost of housing inmates brought in by each jurisdiction’s police department.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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