City/County impasse leads to split, plus new city ‘jail’

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, who campaigned on the promise of better relations with county officials, is moving Tulsa back into the jail business because of a county rate increase.

Last week, Bynum announced plans in the next 30 days to reopen a municipal jail with an annual operating cost of about $1,200,000.00. He said that was in response to a $1.4 million per year increase by Tulsa County to hold municipal inmates.

Bynum also spoke of an agreement with Okmulgee County to house overflow inmates if the new facility is full. Capacity will be about 30 prisoners. Okmulgee plans to charge $48 a day (plus a mileage charge for transportation).

It will cost Tulsa at least $550,000.00 to renovate the space and the police department plans to hire additional detention officers and two police supervisors.

Bynum claimed that the city could save $300,000 a year under his new arrangement.

Bynum called it a “business decision.” His decision was supported by the Tulsa City Council.

Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado said he had no advance warning. Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo had been pushing for Tulsa to pay a greater share of the cost of running the county jail.

Smaligo said it is evident that the city has been planning to run its own jail for a long time and he criticized the secrecy and short notice to the county.

The Tulsa County Commission voted in August to raise the day rate for Tulsa prisoners to $69, including those held on state charges, beginning September 1. That essentially raised the city’s payments from $700,000 to $1.4 million annually.

Bynum’s plan would remove Tulsa County from the detention space the city owns in the City of Tulsa Police/Courts Building next to the Tulsa County Courthouse, which had previously been used as a jail. The county currently uses that space as a holding area for inmates with court appearances.

Bynum served notice to county officials that they would have 30 days before they would have to vacate that space. He wants the renovation to begin as soon as possible. Bynum said the county should look for space in the courthouse itself.