By MARCUS K. GARNER http://www.ajc.com/
When north Fulton County's three newest cities each began creating their own police departments, one major question loomed: Where do you put the people you arrest?
For Sandy Springs, Milton and Johns Creek, the solutions came from locations near and far,
from 20 minutes away to 200 miles.
"Prisoner housing was a big concern," said Milton public safety director Chris Lagerbloom. "It's something you have to do." The 22-member Milton police worked a deal with the Fulton County Sheriff's Department to house the criminals in the Alpharetta-North Fulton Jail Annex, where sheriff's deputies run the Alpharetta facility.
"The sheriff maintains three beds for us," Lagerbloom said. "If we go over, we pay $65 per prisoner per day."
But that has yet to happen in the sprawling new community of roughly 20,000, he said. And transport rarely calls for more than a 20-minute drive.
For the more populous Johns Creek and Sandy Springs, the options require more drive time.
The quick start up for the Sandy Springs police department meant there wasn't time to incorporate even a holding cell. Johns Creek has limited holding space and prefers to out-source overnight jail stays.
Both cities have intergovernmental agreements to keep short-term detainees, like DUI and traffic offenders or misdemeanor miscreants, at Doraville's city jail.More serious lawbreakers who require longer stays are transported to the Irwin County Jail in Ocilla, nearly four hours south of Metro Atlanta.
"They transport prisoners to and from their facility and handle minor medical needs for us," said Sandy Springs police Lt. Steve Rose of the Irwin County Sheriff's staff. Sandy Springs pays Doraville and Irwin County $45 per prisoner per night, Rose said. Last year's bill came to more than $233,000, he said."That's a good deal for us," Rose said, comparing that rate to others that charge as much as $75 per prisoner.
When Johns Creek police go online in April, they will operate from a converted office building, much like Milton and Sandy Springs. Do the plan to build their own jail? "No," Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said.
Rose said Sandy Springs is looking to a different kind of cooperation."Because of all the new cities, we might look at a jail authority," he said. "Sharing with Milton and Johns Creek would be really cost effective."
The idea hasn't gone beyond informal discussion at this point, however. Although Bodker, who is also chair of the North Fulton Municipal Association, said the topic had been considered along with the idea of a joint 9-1-1 center."It would only make sense in terms of cost and convenience to consider a centrally located facility," he said.
Lagerbloom and Bodker pointed out that sharing would be inevitable, if talks of forming Milton County came to fruition.
"Does this decision make sense if we never got Milton County? Yes," Bodker said.
Without a new county, Lagerbloom said the City of Milton likely won't build a jail.
"That was not the business we wanted to be in," he said.