Yakima County jail contract gives hope to cash-strapped departments

YAKIMA, Wash. -- April's property tax revenue will yield $1.5 million less this month for Yakima County's Public Services department following a levy shift enacted by commissioners to make up for a loss of jail revenue.

KIMA wanted to know what a new $700,000 jail bed rental contract announced Tuesday means for the roads now.

"There's probably nobody that wishes Ed more luck than probably I do," said Yakima County Public Services Director Vern Redifer.

Budgets bring stress and tough decisions. Not Laughter.

But, when Yakima County Jail Director Ed Campbell announced a new $700,000 bed contract Tuesday, optimism swept the room.

"The healthier he gets then I'm sure the commissioners will be able to at least reduce the levy shift from roads," said Redifer.

Public Services will lose out on $1.5 million this month, spent on things like county road work.

That money is now being shifted to the general fund to cover millions of dollars lost in jail revenue.

"We are starting to see some rays of light coming in," said Yakima County Commissioner Mike Leita.

Action News wanted to know what the new contract means for roads.

"Will these positive changes impact the $3 million shift?" KIMA asked.

"I'm going to say probably not," said Leita.

So what where will roads feel the most pinch?

"It's having an effect on our maintenance program," said Leita.

Surface road maintenance, dust and weed control will suffer. Paving over gravel county roads will also likely be put on the back burner.

However, more jail contracts could stop that.

"If those were to come to fruition, I would think there may be enough room to start looking at the road levy shift," said Leita.

"It's a reason to have hope and to have optimism," said Redifer.

Hope and optimism the county wants to make a reality.

County Commissioners say they will rely on reserves and grants to supplement this year's major road projects.

However, the levy shift will make it harder for projects in the future without more money.