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Mayor authorized to negotiate inmate contract with county

Published 11:59am Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mayor Don Hall has been authorized by the Hartselle City Council to negotiate a contract with the Morgan County Commission and the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department to house inmates from the Hartselle Police Department.

The action is projected to save the city at least $42,000 a year.

Hall told the council during a work session Monday that he couldn’t justify seeing the city keep the facility open.

“We averaged 1.15 inmates per day,” Hall said. “I don’t think we can justify having two jailers just to keep the facility open.”

Police Chief Ron Puckett said that he didn’t want to keep the jail open if he’s not allowed to replace a jailer position, which became vacant due to a retirement early this year.

“I don’t think we need to keep it open if we’re going to be understaffed,” Puckett said. “I would rather close it and send our inmates to the county if we aren’t allowed to replace the jailer.”

Most of the city council appeared to be in favor of closing the jail.

However, City Councilman Tom Chappell said he had not been convinced that the city needed to close the jail as of last night’s meeting.

“There’s more to consider than just the money side of this,” Chappell said. “It’s possible that we will be taking an officer off the streets to transport an officer to the jail. There may be other benefits that we will lose by closing the jail.”

Puckett added that it could hamper the city’s ability to offer some of its current services.

“If we had someone transporting a prisoner to the jail at the time we had to cover two wrecks and a funeral, the funeral procession might not get a police escort,” Puckett said.

Council President Bill Smelser said the current jailer could help with transportation of prisoners to the Morgan County Jail during the day.

“You may only have to worry about something like that during nights or weekends,” Smelser said.

The council considered the proposal at Tuesday night’s meeting. The meeting had not been conducted as of press time Tuesday.

In the 2013-2014 budget, the cost of two full-time plus housing the inmates costs was expected to be $111,100. The revenue received from Falkville was only $12,300 in 2012-2013 and $2,725 for this fiscal year.

Based on estimates given to other municipalities and Hartselle’s inmate population from last year, Hall anticipated that the annual contract with the county would cost about $18,000. He suggested that the other jailer could be kept on staff for prisoner transportation, leaving the total cost for prisoner housing at $69,100, which is a projected savings of $42,000.

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