Sheriff Loyd Arrington appeared before the Blount County Commission Monday to recommend repairs and upgrades to the county jail, resulting from damage and construction deficiencies discovered as a result of the recent escape of two inmates from the facility. The two inmates managed to cut a 2×2- foot hole in the jail wall. As a result, it was discovered that the concrete blocks constituting the wall had never been poured solid with concrete when the structure was built more than 20 years ago.
Arrington recommended encasing walls of the jail with 1/2-inch steel plating to prevent further attempts to breach the wall, along with installing 4 feet of additional razor wire between the jail wall and the chain link fence surrounding the jail, including additional razor wire creating an inward-slanting overhang at the top of the wall itself to further lessen the possibility of escape. He estimated the total cost of the project to be $60,000 or less, $25,000 of which he would pay from the Sheriff’s Department budget.
Before the commission discussed or voted on the recommendation, county attorney Jeff Sherrer requested a vote be delayed until the matter of deficiencies in original construction could be explored further in executive session, presumably to discuss the possibility of recovery of damages for deficiencies, although that was not said.
Following executive session, the commission took the following actions:
• passed a motion to review the construction plans and specifications for the jail to determine the extent of deficiencies and to engage Lathan and Associates Architects/Engineers to determine remedies, and
• passed a second motion to cooperate with the Sheriff’s Department on a 50/50 basis to pay the cost of interim repairs consisting of the full razor wire additions recommended plus the steel plating recommended for the one cell where inmates breached the wall to escape; further steel plating of the block of 12 cells where inmates requiring maximum security are housed will await the recommendation of Lathan and Associates.
In routine business matters,the commission voted to designate American Fidelity as the cafeteria insurance plan administrator; all other companies will be excluded from open enrollment, except those currently providing group policies to county employees; current policies can be maintained, but future enrollments will not be authorized.
The commission approved a one-year agreement for the purchase of G–Suite business software/service from Google for $10,500, to provide enhanced e-mail and other capabilities.
The commission approved apparently nominal expenditures for landscaping, sidewalk, and parking lot upgrades behind the courthouse for an unknown cost although some, perhaps much, of the expense is already covered under existing contracts, according to a brief exchange between Commissioner Dean Calvert and building and maintenance director William Blythe.
In other actions, the commission:
• appropriated $24,500 from the 1- cent fuel tax Fund 100 for renovation of River Road Bridge in District 2.
• appointed six members to the Palisades Park Board for four-year terms: District 1 – Sherry Reeves; District 2 – Jerry Jones (senior); District 3 – Eric Sanders and Mitzi Stewart; District 4 Randy Hale and James Sullivan. One appointment from District 1 was postponed until a later meeting.
• authorized the chairman to sign agreements with county municipalities for debris removal in connection with large-scale disasters for the upcoming year, Nov. 1, 2016 to Oct. 31, 2017.
• voted to continue taking steps to close the County Line Sewer, by authorizing work on an agreement with the owners of the four residences served by the existing facility.
• approved purchase of an industrial fan for the Agri-Business Center, appropriating $3,000 in addition to the $4,500 already allocated for such purposes.
• approved a two-year lease agreement with the Blount County Department of Human Resources (DHR) for occupancy of existing and additional floor space at the Frank Green Building.
• at engineer’s recommendation, approved an agreement for road work by the developer on three streets in Misty Acres Subdivision, Sector 5 in District 1, to be reimbursed at $13,000.
The commission passed the following resolutions:
• Resolution in Support of Constitutional Amendments 3 & 4. Opinion: these resolutions are complicated, requiring extended explanation to understand. The Blount Countian advises citizens to avail themselves of available wording and explanations and attempt to understand them before voting. The commission supports a “yes” vote on both.
• Resolution in Support of Proposed Constitutional Amendment 14. Opinion: the ballot wording of the amendment is confusing, as is the extended explanation. The commission supports a “yes” vote on this amendment.
• Adoption of Procurement Procedures for Blount County Public Transportation. This is a routine resolution required by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) for continued funding of the county bus transportation system.
• Proclamation Declaring Nov. 18-24, 2016, “Farm–City Week” in Blount County. Routine annual proclamation celebrates importance of agriculture in Blount County and nationwide in providing food and fiber to the populace.
• Resolution Designating Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, “Adoption Day” in Blount County. Resolution emphasizes compassionate and social importance of adoption in American life, expressing appreciation for Blount County institutions which support it: DHR, the courts, and the Blount County families who have adopted 20 children into their homes this year.
Before the commission and attorneys left the room to meet for executive session, District 4 Commissioner Gary Stricklin was recognized and appreciated for his four years of service to the commission and to the people of Blount County. Stricklin was not re-elected for a second term. He will continue to serve until the end of his term in mid- November. Stricklin thanked the commission staff for their support during his tenure, then thanked Sheriff Loyd Arrington for taking him to his special fishing spots. Stricklin concluded by saying, “It’s bittersweet. I had more things I would like to have accomplished, but it was not to be.”
Actions following executive session
The commission passed four motions following executive session. Two of them, concerning the jail, have already been covered. The other two are as follows:
• The commission authorized Revenue Discovery Systems, the tax collection agency for the county, to examine records for a specific tax account for possible abatement of penalties and interest on that account, pending full payment of the actual taxes due.
• The commission authorized the county administrator to examine the pay rates of all personnel under his supervision to assure that their pay is no more than $1.15 less than that recommended by the Auburn University study of employee compensation and subsequent revised pay scales; if it is below $1.15 following the 2 percent cost-of-living raise to be implemented in December, it will be raised to $1.15 below the official Auburn-recommended rate in order to assure equivalence with overall county migration toward full implementation of the new pay scales. Quorum
Three commissioners and the commission chairman were present to constitute a quorum at the business meeting. District 2 Commissioner Carthal Self was absent. Future meetings bulletin
No commission work session will be held in November due to meeting requirements in months in which a commissioner election could have been held (e.g. if there had been a Democrat running). A brief commission business meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 9 a.m. in the commission boardroom, following the swearing in of new commissioners.