Districts to get inmate workers

Blount County Commission

The Blount County Commission agreed to a new inmate-work program that will place two inmates with each district during the day. The new program was approved at the commission’s regular meeting Monday.

As presented by jail administrator Ron Adkins, the basics of the program call for each district to receive two inmates for work each weekday, as needed. The districts would pay $12 per day for the inmates – money to be used for tobacco products or drinks and the remainder would go to the prisoners’ commissary fund at the jail. Approved prisoners would be picked up around 7:30 each morning and dropped off about 5 p.m.

Lunch would be provided by the jail each day and the inmates would be supervised during their workday.

“This is a privilege for these inmates,” said Adkins. “There would be certain protocols for this program that they would have to follow.”

Adkins went on to say that as much as 25 percent of the jail’s population could be eligible for the program.

In a separate matter involving the jail, commissioners agreed to allow Southern Health Partners to establish longer hours for nurses at the Blount County Correctional Facility.

The change, which comes at the request of Southern Health Partners and was introduced by Judge Chris Green, allows certified nurses to work 12-hour shifts instead of the current eight-hour term. This allows nurses to dispense medication to prisoners at 12-hour intervals, per doctor’s orders.

“One of the first things I did was put a stop to jailers dispensing medicines,” said Adkins. “We aren’t certified for that and that should be done by medical personnel.”

The new 12-hour shifts will last through the end of the fiscal year in September and is estimated to cost the county approximately $17,900 for the period. The six-month period for the remainder of the year came after Commissioner Allen Armstrong asked if the current contract could be modified from its current terms. The cost will come from money the commission has put in reserve from the sheriff’s budget.

Commissioner Dean Calvert questioned the use of Southern Health Partners and said that in his opinion some of the problems in medical billing at the jail could lie with the company and not sheriff’s department personnel.

In other business, the commission:

•awarded the bid for microsurfacing roads to Whitaker Contracting of Guntersville.

•rejected the only bid received for a crew cab, four-wheel-drive pickup for the revenue commissioner. It is believed the truck can be purchased at a lower price from the state bid program.

•agreed to pay one-third of the cost for the next year of the Nixle Mass Communications Program. The total for the one-year contract extension is to be split equally between the Blount County Commission, Blount County Sheriff’s Department and Blount County District Attorney’s Office with each paying $2,010. The contract beyond the next year is expected to be taken care of by federal and/or state money.

•granted permission for use of the courthouse lawn for the Bible Marathon Reading Thursday, March 3, through Sunday, May 7, in correlation with the National Day of Prayer.

•agreed to changes for the Blount County Public Transportation Substance Abuse Policy. The changes are mandated by ALDOT.

•contracted for purchase of a single outside mausoleum from Long Family Funeral Home for a total of $1,500. The mausoleum will be used for storage of cremated remains held by the county.

•agreed to a budget amendment for District 1 for $4,000 for Misty Acres Sector 5 subdivision roads. Commissioner Armstrong said this completes the acceptance of all subdivision roads for his district for the year.

•agreed to a budget amendment for District 1 for the acceptance of $69,031 in FEMA funds for the Christmas Day flooding of 2015.

•agreed to allow District 2 to purchase a new mow-trim from Coblentz off the state bid list for $158,221. Commissioner Calvert questioned Commissioner Mike Painter about the purchase, saying that he felt that money for the purchase could be used in road maintenance, specifically pothole work. Painter said that his current mow-trim had lasted 18 years and maintenance costs were prohibitive for the equipment and that he would be at around 10 percent of his budget for equipment, under the state recommended 21 percent. The motion passed 3 to 1, with Calvert casting the dissenting vote – both he and Painter repeatedly said there were no hard feelings. The payment will come one-third from District 2’s 2018 budget and two-thirds financed from Fund 200 with equal payments coming in 2019 and 2020.

•declared surplus District 2’s New Holland tractor (asset 7733) and rotary cutter (asset 7744), which will be replaced by the new equipment. Calvert cast the lone dissenting vote.

•approved a bid request to purchase and install a rotary boom mower for District 3’s Massey Ferguson tractor.

•approved District 2’s paving schedule. As outlined by Commissioner Painter, West Road, Teal Road, Covey Road, Tidwell Road and Mardis Mills Road (one mile, from Ala 79, to be repaved) are set for work this spring/summer. Calvert questioned Painter’s plans and asked specifically about culvert pipes that might need to be replaced. The paving schedule passed unanimously.

•authorized the county administrator to execute a contract with AT&T for cell service. The new contract would also include data and push-to-talk service.

•approved expiring appointments for the Remlap Fire and EMS District Board of Trustees: Mike Taylor (expires August 2021), James Vaughn (August 2022), Peter Sartino (August 2018), Chris Melvin (August 2019) and Dean Gilbert (August 2020).

Engineering items

County engineer Dustin Stewart asked the commission to allow a contract with Safe Span LLC for inspection services on Swann Covered Bridge and Horton Mill Covered Bridge. The $6,500 cost will be paid from Road and Bridge Fund 112. The annual inspections are hands-on and require rappelling with the use of ropes and pulleys to reach the roof and understructure of the bridges.

Stewart also won approval to contract with EEFS Company for preliminary engineering for Miller Road Bridge, which was destroyed in the 2015 Christmas Day flooding. Stewart said the plans are almost complete and the bids could be let in May and returned in June.

The commission also learned from Stewart that Brad Holland had achieved certification as a bridge inspector with National Bridge Inspector Standards (NBIS).

Calvert complimented Stewart and his organization of the office since he took over.

Moving Blount County Forward projects to be worked soon include Wallstown Road, County Road 51, Springville Boulevard and County Road 33. All but Wallstown Road will be micro-surfaced, per the new bid approved earlier.

Finally, in a related engineering matter, Stewart and Commissioner Armstrong informed the commission and those in attendance that the county had received some good news – actually very good news.

Elvester Road had been classified as a minor collector and, as so designated, the state had money available for work on that road. The work alone will come at a savings of about $500,000 and the total savings – with federal money coming for the Dean’s Ferry Bridge project (also on District 1) would save the county about $1.3 million. Armstrong said the federal money would allow the county to use local money in other places where Moving Blount County Forward funds could be applied. The information was greeted with delight and Judge Green asked if he could make the motion to approve himself.

The commission had one more piece of business, which was conducted after a 30-minute executive session. At the advice of the county’s legal team, the commission voted unanimously to settle a $3,000 claim.

Present at the March 19 meeting were commissioners Nick Washburn, Armstrong, Painter and Calvert, Judge Green, several commission staff members and visitors.

The next commission work session is set for Thursday, April 5, and the business meeting will follow on Monday, April 9. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.