Kansas City and Jackson County Do Two Things Twice
I am several weeks late on this, but it is worth stressing how Kansas City and Jackson County have missed a great opportunity to save tax money and improve services with their recent decision to each build a new jail.
Having both Jackson County and Kansas City build their own new local jail is ludicrous. The Jackson County jail is going to cost $301 million (at least). There was discussion of sharing facilities and some resources (such as food service) but now Kansas City is moving ahead with its own facility at a to-be-determined cost.
In the “up-is-down” government universe, the county’s jail contractor told the city council that:
J.E. Dunn, the construction company working on the new county jail, told city council last week that a shared jail would cost more in the long run, because the city would have to pay for services like food and laundry.
Will Kansas City not have to pay for food or laundry at the new facility they are going to build by themselves? Because I don’t think that is going to be a very appetizing or ambrosial jail without food or laundry.
Local governments sharing jails can absolutely work to save tax money and still provide the necessary safety and justice functions jails are there for. Regional jails are common in Virginia, and the U.S. Justice Department released a very favorable report on this practice a while back.
I don’t know who or what to blame here. Contractors running amok and running the show? Political disputes between the two bodies? Quietly disruptive employees who actively oppose service sharing and cost savings because they reduce the number of government jobs? One local elected official is putting the blame squarely on the latter, and I commend him for his blunt comments:
Jackson County Legislator Manny Abarca IV said it’s ridiculous the city and county couldn’t work out an agreement. “It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars to build two facilities that are naturally gonna have similar shared services that we could’ve combined,” he said. “As a taxpayer I’m very upset that this is the outcome.”
Abarca said it seemed like city and county staffers stalled on the project, “long enough to make this impossible to move forward.”
I am delighted that both Kansas City and Jackson County have all of this extra tax money to throw around. Now I don’t have to take the city seriously when it says it can’t afford to operate without an earnings tax.