County hunting for jail bed rentals to cut multi-million dollar debt

County hunting for jail bed rentals to cut multi-million dollar debt
YAKIMA, Wash. – It’s like a dark cloud hanging over the county: tens-of-millions of dollars of debt.

Most of it stems from the loss of inmate bed rentals.

In 2010, the county was pulling in $23 million when cities from around the state were renting space for their inmates in Yakima County.

In 2013, the county expects to take in just $5 million.

And, the county is left trying to make use of the multi-million dollar facility that now sits empty on the fairgrounds.

"I think they're putting the horse before the cart, too far,” said a Yakima man.

“My thoughts are, they should get all the inmates from the old one and start using the new one,” said a Yakima woman.

“I understand where they were coming from in building that if they were planning on renting out the bed space, but if that fell through then they need to figure out something else,” said a Yakima taxpayer.

We asked County Commissioner, Rand Elliott, when the county is going to finally get rid of the debt.

"Ten years. Grin and bear it,” Elliott said. “It's like your mortgage on your house; you're going to keep paying until it's paid off. “

Elliott says those are the terms of their agreement.

For the 2013 budget, the county had a $5.8 million shortfall in the Department of Corrections.

To make up for it, $3 million was pulled from roads, $1.2 million was cut in operational costs, and $1.6 million cut in Law & Justice.

And, to "pay the bills" on the empty fairground building, the county plans to fill it up with various agencies.

Until then, the county says it's most focused on restoring the lost bed rentals.

"The demand for beds remains pretty soft. It's low. But nonetheless, there are a few municipalities that are full, that are talking to us, and we remain hopeful that we'll be able to restore some of those rental beds and ease the strain on the general fund,” Elliott said.

Trying to put some band-aids on a very large wound.