|County News: Jail may house three per cell|
|Thursday, May 10, 2012|
In addition to three squares and a rack, the county jail may start offering its guests an additional cellmate. Currently, two inmates are housed per cell. Due to chronic overcrowding and with the daily average hovering around 700, Sheriff Sonny Weatherford previously indicated that one option he was seriously looking into was increasing the jail capacity by putting three to a cell.
At the Emergency Services Committee Monday, Weatherford reported he had followed through and presented a May 3 report from the Tennessee Corrections Institute, signed by TCI Deputy Director Lance Howell, which concluded that the jail is physically able to house three to a cell.
Howell summarized his May 2, 2012 visit and reported, “I am pleased to inform you that after the measurements were taken from Pod B, triple bunks could be added. The pod we measured currently has 24 individual cells. It is my understanding the pod is certified for 47 inmates, two beds each in 23 cells (two of which cannot be changed due to size), and 1 in a handicapped accessible cell. Based on the Minimum Standards requirements you would be able to replace up to 17 double bunks with triple bunks. This would bring the new certified capacity to 64 in each pod.”
Caveats include staff addressing jail policy matters and that all pods and cells being the same size per TCI’s understanding from jail staff. Further, “It should also be noted that you did not intent (sic) on adding bunks to the two Maximum Security Pods in the same facility.”
It would only temporarily relieve overcrowding but could buy the county more time for the economy to rebound and county revenues to improve before having to commit to a major capital outlay. TCI concurred with the Sheriff’s previous estimates that it would be a significant cost savings measure in lieu of new construction. Weatherford has stated that cost estimates ran about $1,000 a bed and could be done for a fraction of the cost of new construction that would run into the millions.
Howell also commended the county’s foresight: “This change would not have been possible had Sumner County officials not increased the additional square footage during the original construction. Your county is to be commended for taking such as proactive approach in relation to overcrowding issues.”
EMS collections improving
Emergency Medical Services Director Keith Douglas indicated in his monthly EMS report that collections were improving and that in March and April, “We were where we needed to be.” As to the original fiscal year projected shortfall of $250,000, “it may be more like $100,000 or less,” he stated as the current target projection.
Last month, Douglas reported that their focus has shifted to improving on accounts receivable collections. He indicated this month EMS has been zeroing in on the aged accounts receivable. The longer an account remains unpaid, the less likely collection will ever occur.
Fire cart gets before horse
This one comes from the “How did that ever get on the agenda? category, according to one committee member.
Somehow, a representative from the County Technical Assistance Service showed up with information on county fire protection funding and fire tax districts. Committee Chairman Jim Vaughn suggested that somehow the cart got before the horse and the time was not right.
Vaughn proposed that firefighters might want to get with one of the most experienced firefighters around, committee member Commissioner Ben Harris who works for the Gallatin Fire Department, first and then get with CTAS.
Comm. Mike Guthrie stated, “We’ve got to start somewhere. We can’t sit back and do nothing.”
Harris said, “There’s not a lot we can do - other than appropriate money.”
Another committee member noted afterwards the agenda did list a line for Report from the Fire Department but that was not of the nature of a report.
By Jesse Hughes