James Zahnd
Justice of the Peace
Saline County District 13
21 Sergio Way – Hot Springs Village, AR 71909
Telephone: 501 / 701-3738

June, 4, 2013
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
A good crowd of local residents turned out May 21 when the Saline County Quorum Court held its monthly meeting in Hot Springs Village. Normally, the Court meets at the Saline County Court House in Benton, but the May and June meetings this year are being held at other sites -- the Village and East End -- in order to make the Court’s proceedings more accessible to citizens living considerable distances from the seat of our county government. 
It was the first time in four years the Court has met here, and local residents demonstrated their appreciation and commitment to effective local government by attending the meeting. 
One of the key pieces of business considered by the Court at its meeting here was an ordinance to reimburse jurors for the miles they drive to and from jury duty. I was the lead sponsor of that ordinance and pleased that it passed unanimously. 
Prior to the ordinance’s passage, those reporting for jury duty received a per diem of $25 a day, and those actually serving on a jury received $50 a day.  However, for jurors living here and in other distant parts of the County, much of the per diem was consumed by the cost of travel.  Now, jurors will receive 42 cents per mile driven to cover their automobile expense, in addition to their per diem. 
The cost of operating Saline County Detention Center in Benton is becoming an increasing concern for the Quorum Court.  While the Detention Center is one of the most effective and efficiently operated facilities of its kind in Arkansas, spiraling occupancy and increasing costs are making adequate funding a challenge.  The 2013 county general budget contains $1.3 million in supplemental funding for jail operations as well as other funding amounting to $1.4 million.
The seven-year-old Detention Center has the capacity to hold 180 prisoners. Last year, it recorded 6,207 bookings and 49,923 days of incarceration. Both figures represent increases of more than 10% in little more than five years.
Recently, jail officials have surfaced some creative approaches for easing the financial burden of caring for prisoners.  Last month, for example, the Quorum Court passed an ordinance requiring inmates to pay a $20 co-pay for any prisoner-initiated medical services they receive, and a $10 co-pay for all doctor prescribed prescriptions not covered by the inmates’ insurance. A related proposal yet to come before the Court would charge prisoners for the cost of their incarceration and for transportation to and from their court appearances.
While officials candidly acknowledge that such actions are not likely to provide major revenue for jail operations, they believe they do begin to shift the financial burden of incarceration from the County’s law-abiding taxpayers to the criminals. What do you think? If you have an opinion on this, I’d like to hear it.
If you have friends or neighbors who would be interested in having the information in my newsletters, please feel free to forward them to your personal email lists.  Until next time………..JZ