Since the Phillips County Jail failed its latest inspection, Sheriff Neal Byrd approached the quorum court Tuesday suggesting each community help pay a percentage of the upkeep of the facilities based on the number of prisoners they have housed there.
Byrd's presentation sparked a somewhat lively discussion about the conditions at the jail.
Justice Teresa Morgan stated that she has been a member of the quorum court for quite some time but during her tenure nothing has been done about the “deplorable” conditions there.
“I toured the facility a few years ago and what I saw made me want to throw up,” commented Morgan. “During the time I have been seated on the quorum court we have done nothing about the conditions at the jail.”
According to County Judge Don Gentry the jail was built 30 years ago and wasn't done correctly.
“We are looking at millions of dollars, not thousands, to fix the problems,” he stated. “We don't know exactly how long this facility is going to stand in the condition that it is in and the main question being asked by other facilities is how long are they going to have to house the prisoners when and if the proper repairs can be made.”
According to Gentry, the county would be faced with an even larger expense if the jail facility was shut down and they were forced to house prisoners elsewhere.
“All entities would have to take responsibility for their own prisoners and the county would be responsible for county prisoners only,” said the judge.
Gentry stressed that progress on jail improvements is in limbo. No action was taken on the jail issue.
In other business, Rebecca Gattas is currently running a one-person operation in the County Treasurer's Office after her full-time co-worker resigned to take a higher paying job elsewhere. Gattas approached the JPs concerning filling the slot with some part-time help from the Chamber of Commerce until she could fill the vacated position.
“I already have the money appropriated for the full-time position but it will take about six weeks before I can fill the slot because of advertisement requirements and the interview process,” said Gattas. “I need some help until the position is filled.”
The JPs denied Gattas' request for funding for part-time help but gave her the green light to begin the search for a full-time replacement.
Doug Friedlander, executive director of the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce, gave an update on the status of the county's new animal control center.
“It is nearly complete,” stated Friedlander. “What I have to present to you tonight is some proposed uniform rules to considered instituting countywide regarding minimum expectations dealing with animal control. This plan will also be presented to the city councils of all the incorporated communities in the county. If approved, it will be presented to the quorum court next month in the form of an ordinance.”
Page 2 of 2 - In one other item of business, the JPs approved Gentry's request to hire a worker to repair potholes on county roads.