WEDOWEE - With construction of the county's new jail in the home stretch toward completion, the county has turned its attention to the details of opening and running the new facility.
To that end, Randolph County Commission listened to a staffing plan for the new jail presented by JMR+H Architecture senior partner Mike Rutland at Monday's commission meeting.
JMR+H designed the new jail and has provided hands-on guidance to the county throughout the construction process.
Rutland presented a detailed staffing plan that outlined the number of employees the jail would need, what those positions would be and the way the employees' schedules would work.
Rutland made it clear to the commission that his plan was meant as a starting point for discussion and that the county and the sheriff's department have the final say in customizing the plan to their needs.
The current Randolph County Jail has a staff of 18 people. According to Rutland, a minimum of 19 people would be needed to fully staff the new facility. But that number represents something of a bare-bones crew as it does not include a full-time maintenance person or food-service personnel, and it leaves some areas with just one staff member where two or more would be ideal.
That puts the optimal number at 22, which means the county would have to hire four new employees or cross-train a handful of sheriff's deputies to bridge the personnel gap.
Rutland cautioned against the temptation to go with a smaller staff as a cost-cutting measure, stating that limited personnel almost always leads to greater expense because of the additional overtime pay required.
That message seemed to hit home with Commissioners Doyle Allen and Derek Farr, who spoke in support of adding the necessary staff positions as soon as the new jail opens. Allen also mentioned the need for across-the-board pay increases for jail staff as a way to help with employee retention.
Sheriff David Cofield said keeping his current jail staff at that number of 18 is an ongoing challenge.
"Nine or 10 of those 18 positions are in and out," Cofield told the commission. "It's just constant turnover."
Commissioner Lathonia Wright said he supports the idea of full staffing and increased pay in theory, but wonders how the county would fund the additional payroll costs.
"I don't see the money," Wright said.
Allen mentioned that the half-cent sales tax passed to cover the construction of the jail was worded in such a way that the tax would continue after the jail is complete and that those tax funds would be designated for the operation of the new facility.
The legislation enacting the sales tax states that the funds are to be used for "construction, operation and maintenance" of the new jail and that, "The tax shall terminate when the debt for the construction of the jail is paid in full."
County CFO Travis Heard said that the debt for the jail will probably span 30 years, based on the issuance of bonds.
What that means is that once construction of the jail is complete, the county should not have to dip into its general fund to foot the bill for additional payroll costs for the new facility.
Rutland said construction of the jail should be complete by the second week of September, barring any significant delays. The county would then transition inmates and personnel from the old jail to the new facility over the course of a couple of weeks.
In other action Monday, the county commission:
- Opted against closing County Road 262 after the property owner who originally proposed the idea changed course in the face of opposition from neighbors who wanted the road to remain open. The reason the county considered closing the road was because of an ongoing problem of people using it as a place to leave unwanted trash.
- Named Nancy May as 911 board member for District 4.
- Approved an alcohol sales license for Lakeside Market and Grill in Wedowee.
- Approved an estimated $7,200 cost for the state examiner to audit the county's community corrections program.
- Re-appointed Randy Howell as the District 2 representative to Randolph County Health Care Authority.
- Selected Lathonia Wright as the county's commission representative to the ACCA's "One Voice Session" scheduled for Aug. 20.