Tirey, Commission square off on budget
by Jennifer Cohron
Mar 14, 2014 | 2157 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sheriff John Mark Tirey made his first appearance before the Walker County Commission since last fall’s budget talks Thursday to reiterate his position that his department was not sufficiently funded.

Commissioners trimmed nearly $92,000 from the sheriff’s office’s $2.2 million budget and another $130,000 from the jail’s $3.1 million budget in 2013.

In contrast, Tirey questioned other financial decisions that have been made by the commission, such as the purchase of automated garbage trucks and new weather sirens.

“The tornado sirens may go off a few times a year, but I can assure you that folks are going to call the sheriff’s office every day. We get about 20,000 calls a year from somebody saying, ‘Get out here. Something’s going on,’” Tirey said.

Tirey said he expects his fuel budget to be depleted within the next two months, and he would be forced to park his patrol units at that time.

He also expressed concerns about locks that have not been fixed at the county jail.

District 2 representative Dan Wright said two officers have been physically assaulted because of the lapse in security.

Commission chairman Billy Luster suggested that Tirey use the $65,000 remaining in a line item for repairs and maintenance of buildings and lands to repair the locks.

District 1 representative Keith Davis added that commissioners allocated $50,000 for a security upgrade at the jail several months ago.

“We allocate the money. It is the department head’s job to run that department and take care of the security issues. Is $115,000 not enough to fix that? Do I need to go get the bids, or is it the department head’s job? I’ll take accountability for what I’m accountable for, but I’m not going to take accountability for a department that I don’t run or have any authority over,” Davis said.

District 4 representative Steven Aderholt said he called an emergency session of the commission after he learned about three separate security issues at the jail last year.

“Our concern is for their safety in that jail as well. We have done our part to allocate the money to fix that problem ... It is not our task to go down there and look at locks and take bids. It’s yours,” Aderholt said.

Tirey said any extra money he has in the budget is being used for other expenses.

“As much as I was cut, I have to pull from this money constantly. Who is going to come up with toilet paper and hygiene kits. What about the fuel?” Tirey said.

Wright, who voted against the current budget largely because he objected to taking money from the sheriff’s office, said a locksmith estimated that it would cost more than $250,000 to repair the locks at the jail.

Tirey said the locks were refurbished several years ago.

“If you took your door at home and slammed it and used it as much as they are and if it weighed as much as they do, they wear out. They’re not going to last forever,” Tirey said.

Wright offered to give the sheriff’s department $42,000 from his district’s budget.

Luster said the commission would also make a budget amendment if necessary once the $65,000 remaining in the sheriff’s budget is exhausted.