The city of Middletown stopped accepting inmates from Trenton at its city jail because Trenton did not pay bills for jail services last year, officials said.
Trenton owes nearly $26,000 in unpaid jail housing costs for a period from March 1 to Sept. 30, 2018. That amount equates to about 323.5 jail days.
Trenton signed a one-year contract with Middletown, and Trenton City Council approved a motion in on April 2018. Trenton was to pay $80 per day or part day per prisoner housed at the jail. Prisoners accepted at the jail were those charged felony offenses or crimes of violence.
Middletown police Chief Rodney Muterspaw acknowledged his department did not send the bills promptly. However, Trenton is still obligated to pay, he said.
“This was over a 14-month period when there was a transition of police chiefs, jail commanders and clerical staff,” Muterspaw said. “But once we caught it, we sent out letters.”
Middletown has reduced its jail population to 35 as recommended by the state. Muterspaw said he and Deputy Chief David Birk met with Trenton police Chief Arthur Scott and a member of his staff several months before the last jail contract was signed.
“We told them that major changes were coming regarding prisoners and the intake of certain crimes,” Muterspaw said. “They were not happy with that and disagreed with our upcoming process saying it would cause hardship on their staffing.”
After Trenton was charged $16,361 for the period of March 1 to June 30, officials told Middletown they were not expecting such a high bill, Middletown officials said.
Middletown’s Law Department and Trenton officials discussed the issue, and that bill was not paid. From July 1 to Sept. 30, Trenton continued to house prisoners in Middletown, which added another $9,520 to the bill.
On Oct. 1, Trenton started arresting offenders under state code and taking them to the Butler County Jail to avoid housing costs.
Scott said Trenton had been housing prisoners in Middletown for years and had never been billed. He added that there is no funding in his budget for housing prisoners.
After receiving the bill from Middletown, he tried to contact Muterspaw to negotiate, he said.
“I want them to recognize that it’s wrong for them to pull the plug and not return phone calls or emails,” Scott said. “They used the contract to kick us out.”
Muterspaw said he declined to talk to Scott after Trenton’s city attorney became involved and referred everything to the Middletown Law Department. He said they have been at the same chiefs meetings and Scott never talked to him about the issue.
Muterspaw said there are no legal requirements for Middletown to house prisoners from outside agencies.
“I think what bothered me the most is yes, we erred in not billing. That is on us and our jail staff. However, once we found that out, and gave them the amount, they balked at it,” Muterspaw said. “The bottom line is our taxpayers were paying for their prisoners’ jail stay, medical, food, etc. It wasn’t right.”