Court deals with jail expenses, taping

Posted September 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm

of meetings during meeting Tuesday

Clinton County Fiscal Court held a “call” meeting Tuesday morning with all members present and a lighter than usual agenda. The meeting became a special session when last week’s regular meeting was cancelled due to the death of Circuit Judge Eddie C. Lovelace.

After voting to pay claims and bills, Director of Emergency Services Lonnie Scott presented the court with final costs for new consoles that had been purchased for the 911 Dispatch with a Homeland Security grant.

The grant amount was for $41,000 and the total cost of the equipment was $43,858, or just under $3,000 that the county would have to pay.

Initially, County Treasurer Dallas Sidwell said “we don’t have the money” to cover the remaining $2,858 needed for the full purchase price. However, Scott noted the grant had been in the works for going on two years and the initial estimates for the equipment had gone up some.

Following a brief discussion, the court opted to transfer the remaining amount needed from the Occupational Tax Fund, which was approved during the treasurer’s report (which also passed) and fund transfers.

Magistrate Charlene King questioned the amount of revenue that is now in the OT fund. Sidwell noted that after the transfers approved at the meeting, there would be around $24,000 prior to the next quarter year’s collections.

Tracy Reed with the Department of Corrections then gave a cost analysis of the Clinton County Jail, as requested earlier by the court.

Reed noted that the local facility, one of only four Life Safety jails still open in the state, has a capacity for 19 inmates and that has been the average at the jail over the past months. However, the average county inmate population is 33, which means about 14 per month are being housed at other detention facilities.

The local jail currently has seven full-time and seven part-time employees and Reed recommended that the jail should have all 14 employees as full-time, noting the work load at the jail

Some other suggestions for cost savings, according to Reed, may be privatizing the food service which may save some money.

Reed also noted that at least three people should be on duty at all times and said that all jail personnel should be sworn deputies. She also recommended lessening the duties on the current chief deputy, who currently does an array of different jobs at the jail.

In reference to having all 14 jail employees be full-time, Magistrate Larry Hatfield also asked, “Are you going to recommend funding (to pay the full-time salaries).”

Hatfield and other magistrates also said they thought Reed was going to do a cost comparison based on the cost of keeping the jail open or closing the facility.

Reed said she would be glad to do such a cost comparison analysis, but that the county would need to contact other jails and get a contract amount on how much they would charge to house local inmates if the local facility were to be closed.

County Judge Lyle Huff and Jailer Gene Ferrill also noted there were a lot of variables that go into other jails accepting other county’s prisoners, such as those with high medical expenses, inmates that may be suicidal or those who would cause trouble and be turned away from other jails.

The court agreed to check into contract prices with other area jails and supply that information to the Department of Corrections so a cost analysis comparison on keeping the jail open or closing it, could be made.

County Attorney Michael Rains addressed the court about providing insurance for two office staff who work with child support. Rains said he would pay the employees from his own budget at $640 per month and reimburse the county. Treasurer Sidwell noted that he had checked into the matter and Rains could write the check for the insurance directly to the company and send it in with regular court claims and bills.

A motion to allow the County Attorney to provide insurance for the two employees passed by unanimous vote.

The court, on a motion by Hatfield, voted to appoint Jamie Sparks as a member of the Clinton County Public Library Board.

The court then briefly discussed having fiscal court meetings videotaped.

Magistrate Charlene King had made a formal request that the issue be put on the agenda and said she knew of a person who would do the taping of the meetings, that being J.T. Hadley, if the court agreed to it.

Hatfield made a motion to have Hadley address a future meeting of the court and make a presentation, adding he felt that all public meetings of governing bodies, or taxing districts be taped. Magistrate Patty Guinn, in seconding the motion, also agreed that if the court meetings were to be taped, all public meetings should be as well.

Apparently the court will inquire to see if Hadley would be agreeable to make a proposal to all other government bodies to video tape their meetings as well.

The motion to have Hadley make a presentation passed on a split 4-2 vote, with Hatfield, Guinn and Magistrates Ricky Craig and Phillip Parrigin voting yes and Magistrates King and Mickey Riddle voting no.

The court then entered into a 15-minute closed door session on personnel and upon returning to open session, voted to switch Jana Griffis from part to full-time EMT at the same rate of pay and hire Marc Richardson as part-time paramedic at the base starting pay of $12.50 per hour. Both are replacement employees to fill positions left vacant by others leaving the EMS.

Since the meeting was a special meeting, nothing further could be acted on that wasn’t on the agenda.

The court will hold another call meeting next Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. to approve its five-year Solid Waste Plan, among possible other issues that will be placed on the agenda. The court’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 18 at 5 p.m. Both meetings are open to the general public.