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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A task force consisting of City of Springfield and Greene County staff worked for the past 18 months to identify challenges facing both governmental entities and reported them to City Council and the Greene County Commission, Dec. 9. The report grouped issues in the following major categories: law enforcement and the criminal justice system; unfunded state and federal mandates; and the City and County’s financial stability. The Joint City-County Planning Task Force also further identified three pressing issues that members suggest need immediate attention. Those include: insufficient jail space and criminal justice system capacity; lack of stormwater funding for mandated improvements; and the County’s unsustainable financial situation. A lengthy list of criminal offenses for which criminals are booked and released is among the details of the report, which includes an infographic depicting the strain. “Jail crowding continues to be the most obvious symptom of an under resourced criminal justice system negatively impacting the community’s public safety,” explains Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson. “If these systemic issues are not addressed, one potential outcome is a federal court order placing a cap on the number of inmates housed in the jail. Such a cap would require the release of dangerous or repeat offenders, the housing of inmates in other jails at additional expense, or fines for failing to abide by the cap.” The Joint City-County Planning Task Force report further lays out the complicated and inter-related problem of having an overstressed regional criminal justice system. Springfield-Greene County’s criminal justice system includes a set of agencies and processes to apprehend, prosecute, defend, sentence, rehabilitate and punish those who are suspected or convicted of criminal offenses. Troubling crime statistics, inadequate court facilities and staffing shortages in the prosecuting attorney and public defenders’ office are creating a set of conditions that officials worry about. Overall, the largest dollar impact on the community over the next 10-20 years are looming unfunded environmental mandates, required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “There are stringent rules coming down for drinking water, air quality and landfills, in addition to the mandates we are currently working to meet in the areas of stormwater and wastewater,” explained City Manager Greg Burris. “Altogether, we estimate that unfunded federal environmental mandates could cost our community as much as $1.6 billion dollars over the next 20 years.” Upgrades to the sewer and stormwater systems, required as part of a push for more stringent enforcement of the Clean Water Act of 1972, are being negotiated as part of agreements, called consent decrees, between cities and the EPA through partners at the state level – the Department of Natural Resources in Missouri (MDNR). Recent MDNR agreements with other Missouri cities have included billions of dollars in mandated improvements. The City committed to completing a $50 million "early action plan" focused on rehabilitating sewer lines in older sections of the city to prevent groundwater and storm run-off from entering the system. Within the next few weeks, the City will be submitting a plan to MDNR for investments in the local sewer system totaling $200 million over 10 years. These investments are designed to reduce sanitary sewer overflows, eliminate bypasses from the treatment plants, and improve water quality. Because a countywide 1/8-cent parks/stormwater sales tax sunset in 2012, however, both the City and County lack funding to maintain and replace existing infrastructure and meet state and federal stormwater mandates estimated to be between $7.75 million and $11 million each year, with more costs possible as federal environmental mandates are revised. The City of Springfield, Greene County and City Utilities have partnered to create a first-of-its kind “Integrated Plan for the Environment” that has been proposed in an attempt to make compliance with federal mandates as affordable for citizens as possible, while still protecting the environment. The task force report also touches on the precarious position of the County’s financial situation, which includes a grim outlook showing anticipated declines in the general fund and a series of indicators showing capital and repair needs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with no funding source. Neither the City nor the County has a regular budget for lifecycle replacements of vehicles and equipment. “We recognize the reality that it is human nature not to recognize a problem until it affects us, personally,” said Chris Coulter, acting County administrator. “We hope this report is seen as a warning flag highlighting issues that, if left unaddressed, will begin to negatively affect our City and County citizens directly, as well as our community’s economic vitality.” For the complete report and comprehensive compilation of topic summaries discussed in the task force’s 27 meetings, visit springfieldmo.gov/jointcitycountytaskforce.Full Report with Infographics
Topic Summaries # # # For more information, contact: Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, 417-864-1009 (office) | 417-380-3352 (cell), [email protected]