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Oak Harbor submits booking fee proposal

"Under a Under a proposed ordinance, anyone who is arrested and booked into the Oak Harbor Jail may find cash missing from their purse or wallet after being released.Oak Harbor city leaders have proposed implementing a booking fee at the jail as a way to recover some of the costs of putting and keeping people in jail. The idea came up during recent discussions about the city's faltering budget and the need to lay off city employees.Yet City Attorney Phil Bleyhl said the ordinance, if the City Council passes it, won't mean a big windfall for city coffers. Under a state law passed a couple of years ago, a jail can charge a maximum $10 booking fee to incoming inmates to cover the costs of paperwork, fingerprinting and other administrative-type work.At most, Bleyhl said the city will make about $6,000 a year from the fee.It's so trivial that is doesn't seem worth the effort, he said. But in talking with other jurisdictions they convinced me it is cost effective.Bleyhl said collecting the fee shouldn't mean any significant extra work for the jailers. After collecting and taking an inventory of a person's property, he said the jailer can simply take $10 if the person happens to have cash on them. If they don't, he said the city could theoretically try to collect it later, though in reality it probably wouldn't be worth the effort.The booking fees will go into the city's general fund, Bleyhl said, but they have to be closely tracked. If someone pays the fee but is later found to be innocent, the city must return the money.The city jail, located adjacent to the police department, can house up to 12 prisoners, both adult males and females. The seven jailers work eight-hour shifts on a rotating schedule to provide round-the-clock coverage. The jailers are responsible for scheduling jail time, bringing prisoners to court and fingerprinting. When not busy with prisoners they are responsible for processing concealed weapons permits, alien registration and special licenses. They process the police department's film and input information into a database of pawn slips, arrest sheets and fingerprint classification. On top of that, they handle over 400 arrest warrant files a year. as a way to recover some of the costs of putting and keeping people in jail. The idea came up during recent discussions about the city's faltering budget and the need to lay off city employees.Yet City Attorney Phil Bleyhl said the ordinance, if the City Council passes it, won't mean a big windfall for city coffers. Under a state law passed a couple of years ago, a jail can charge a maximum $10 booking fee to incoming inmates to cover the costs of paperwork, fingerprinting and other administrative-type work.At most, Bleyhl said the city will make about $6,000 a year from the fee.It's so trivial that is doesn't seem worth the effort, he said. But in talking with other jurisdictions they convinced me it is cost effective.Bleyhl said collecting the fee shouldn't mean any significant extra work for the jailers. After collecting and taking an inventory of a person's property, he said the jailer can simply take $10 if the person happens to have cash on them. If they don't, he said the city could theoretically try to collect it later, though in reality it probably wouldn't be worth the effort.The booking fees will go into the city's general fund, Bleyhl said, but they have to be closely tracked. If someone pays the fee but is later found to be innocent, the city must return the money.The city jail, located adjacent to the police department, can house up to 12 prisoners, both adult males and females. The seven jailers work eight-hour shifts on a rotating schedule to provide round-the-clock coverage. The jailers are responsible for scheduling jail time, bringing prisoners to court and fingerprinting. When not busy with prisoners they are responsible for processing concealed weapons permits, alien registration and special licenses. They process the police department's film and input information into a database of pawn slips, arrest sheets and fingerprint classification. On top of that, they handle over 400 arrest warrant files a year. "

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