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City OKs jail to be run publicly, with county

Bill Donovan
Staff Writer
Gallup Independant

GALLUP The city council did its part Wednesday, approving a joint agreement that would result in the city and county basically running the McKinley County Adult Detention Center.

The agreement still needs county and state approval but the first step was taken to create a jail authority (made up of city, county and local law enforcement representatives) to oversee the operation of the detention center, turning it from being privately-run to a publicly-run facility for the first time.

City Manager Eric Honeyfield said the agreement itself does not require the county to end its relationship with the Management Training Center, the company that now runs the detention facility, but if the county does keep MTC in charge, the agreement would be null and void.

Under the agreement, the city jail would be closed and the prisoners housed there would be transferred to the detention facility. The city jail employees would be transferred there as well and current employees at the detention center would have to apply for any vacancies that are still left.

Honeyfield said he wasn't a big advocate of privately-run jails, feeling that a government-run facility puts more emphasis on safety issues.

The detention facility has about 300 beds and the county and city would use about 200 beds, he said, leaving some 100 beds that could be rented to outside jurisdictions.

Frank Gonzales, a former police chief and county sheriff for this area and now a member of the city council, said he hoped that once the facility becomes publicly run, the new jail authority didn't bring in inmates from out-of-state.

"We have enough inmates from around this area - McKinley, San Juan and Cibola counties - to fill up the beds so we don't have to take inmates from Oregon and Idaho," he said.

Mary Ann Armijo, another member of the council, said she was also comfortable with the idea of a city-county run facility.

As a representative of the district in which the detention center is located, she said she also felt that the residents who live around the facility would also feel safer if it was run by the government.

If the agreement gets approval from the county and the state, Honeyfield said that it would still take some time for the actual turnover to occur since the county's contract with MTC requires a 90-day notice of termination.

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