UPDATE: Con Rail derailed; city offers MCSO free parking

Posted: Updated:
County would have saved up to $72,000
azfamily.com

UPDATE -- THURSDAY, JAN. 29:

PHOENIX -- Two days after the first inmate was personally transported by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies on the Valley's new light-rail system, city officials have come up with a solution to cut short the controversy and satisfy the sheriff's office.

The city has provided four free parking passes to enable the sheriff's extradition unit to conduct business without incurring any more parking expenses.

"Utilizing the light rail would have been a viable and safe alternative for transporting inmates," Arpaio said in a press release. "Since the city has been kind enough to issue free parking, we will go back to transporting inmates the way we used to, for now."

Arpaio said Thursday will be the last time an inmate will be transported on the light rail unless an unforeseen situation occurs and light rail use becomes necessary again.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the city of Phoenix took away the sheriff's free airport parking for inmate extradition in July 2007, saying that it was too costly to provide free parking.

"I appreciate the cooperation we have received by the city of Phoenix to alleviate this light rail controversy," Arpaio said.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

PHOENIX -- As a cost-saving measure, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is planning to transport inmates on the Valley's new light-rail system.

In the first phase, deputies will transport inmates who are flown in from out of state from Sky Harbor International Airport to the Fourth Avenue Jail.

According to the sheriff's office, this will eliminate the need for costly parking fees associated with inmate transport. Projected cost savings from this phase of "Con Rail" is estimated to be about $72,000.

However, airport police say deputies can park in their lot for free.

Arpaio said the prisoners would be transported one at a time with two armed deputies.

Arpaio said the deputies will be an added security measure for the Metro light rail.

"Not only is this program financially creative in these tough economic times, but we will be providing a service to the city's light rail program by occasionally providing free security," Arpaio said. "There is nothing to be concerned or worried about as my deputies will be armed."

Arpaio went along on the first Con Rail transport Tuesday night, a woman flown in from Kansas City who was wanted on felony forgery charges.

Arpaio said if the airport will give him free parking and put it in writing, he will reconsider the Con Rail.