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North Las Vegas council approves new jail contract

North Las Vegas will save at least $3.5 million over the next year for sending its inmates to the Las Vegas Detention Center under a new deal approved Wednesday night, and efforts are underway to reach a similar agreement with the jail in Lincoln County.

While the city will pay less in the revised jail-sharing agreement set to begin in April, the head of the police union said that a large chunk of the savings will come from laying off up to 21 detention officers and seven supervisors who now keep an eye on North Las Vegas inmates housed at the Las Vegas Detention Center.

“I think it’s a big step backward,” said Mike Yarter, president of the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association, which represents 275 law enforcement officers, including the affected detention officers.

“We believe the city should reopen the North Las Vegas Detention Center because we want to keep our officers employed,” Yarter said. “Having a jail in your city is important because we’ll be able to keep officers on the street for a longer amount of time instead of having them transport inmates to another city.”

Some savings will go toward hiring about a half-dozen marshals charged with transporting inmates to the jails in Las Vegas and Lincoln County, city officials said. Yarter said he plans to discuss the job cuts Thursday with North Las Vegas Police Chief Alex Perez.

Lateral job transfers will be offered to the North Las Vegas detention officers, allowing them to become part of the Las Vegas city staff, Deputy Las Vegas City Manager Orlando Sanchez said. The move will save the city of Las Vegas money because it won’t need to hold an additional academy to train the North Las Vegas officers, Sanchez said.

North Las Vegas was in the midst of a budget crisis in 2012 but managed to save millions of dollars by closing city’s detention center and laying off 85 jail staffers. The city struck up a five-year jail-sharing agreement with the neighboring city of Las Vegas to house its inmates.

Earlier this year, Las Vegas city officials said they collected more than $27.7 million over the past four years to cover jail space, food, booking and medical costs of inmates coming in from North Las Vegas. In July, North Las Vegas city officials said they wanted to renegotiate the contract to reduce those costs.

The revised deal was unanimously approved by the Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday morning. Later that night, the North Las Vegas City Council voted 4-1 in favor of the contract, with Councilwoman Anita Wood opposed.

“Of course we want our own jail … but because of the constraints we continue to find ourselves in, we have negotiated the best that we could,” North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee said. “We are just a little short at the moment.”

North Las Vegas is budgeted this year to spend $8.3 million for rent within the Las Vegas Detention Center, along with food, bed fees and other operating costs, city officials said. Under the revised contract, North Las Vegas will not pay rent or operating costs to Las Vegas starting in April.

North Las Vegas will, however, pay a daily bed fee of $132 for each inmate kept at the Las Vegas jail, down from $150 per day under the previous deal. Las Vegas will be able to house up to 240 men and 75 women who were arrested in North Las Vegas. Inmate rates will increase 2 percent annually during the first five years, then jump to 3 percent annually during the last five years of the deal.

To keep costs down, North Las Vegas officials are planning to send only pretrial detainees to the Las Vegas jail. City officials are negotiating a contract that calls for shipping up to 70 sentenced inmates more than 170 miles north to the jail in Lincoln County. The City Council could consider the agreement, estimated to cost $75 daily for each inmate, later this year.

“For almost 10 years, we have been housing inmates from the Clark County Detention Center, so this is not new to us,” Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said. “We hope to be a cost-effective option to the city, if possible.”

Review-Journal staff writer Jamie Munks contributed to this report.

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Find @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

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