Since 2004 there has been a program in place in Mille Lacs County which charges inmates $20 a day to stay in the county jail if they are on a work release sentence.
The county bills in excess of $100,000 annually for the Pay to Stay program and the money received goes into the county’s general fund.
But about $20,000 to $30,000 of the amount billed is turned over to a collection agency and Sheriff Brent Lindgren asked county commissioners at their June 19 meeting to contract with a new company.
Lindgren said that Financial Consulting, Foley, had gone out of business and he wanted to hire Grand American Resources, Grand Marais, for collection of fees.
Former employees of Financial Consulting have started the company, Grand American Resources.
Lindgren told commissioners that the new company will charge an eight percent processing fee for the money it collects.
That fee goes up to 20 percent if the company has to aggressively pursue a collection, and up to 35 percent if there is a lawsuit.
Commissioner Phil Peterson asked the sheriff when he writes off amounts that haven’t been collected.
“We allow them [collection company] to pursue,” Lindgren answered. “We haven’t written anything off.”
Commissioner Dan Whitcomb, who had the item about the new company pulled from the consent agenda, wanted to know if the sheriff had sought bids for the collection service.
Lindgren answered that he hadn’t and that he felt comfortable with the new company.
Whitcomb also said he thought it might be possible to get a cheaper fee. The sheriff said that other collection agencies would likely charge a higher fee than the one proposed.
Lindgren also told board members during the discussion that it makes more sense to have a collection agency try to collect the fees than it would to pay salary and benefits to a county employee to collect about $30,000 annually.
A motion was passed to approve the contract with Grand American Resources, with Whitcomb casting the only dissenting vote.