Commission votes 4-1 to give sheriff more time on meals for county inmates

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 10/16/17

The Walker County Commission on Monday held an executive session on pending litigation for about an hour, and then voted 3-1 to delay handing over to the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

Commission votes 4-1 to give sheriff more time on meals for county inmates

Posted

The Walker County Commission on Monday held an executive session on pending litigation for about an hour, and then voted 3-1 to delay handing over to the sheriff the direct funding, as well as the responsibility to contract, meals at the Walker County Jail until Jan. 1, 2018.

The commission voted earlier this month to have meal funds to go direct to the sheriff instead of through the General Fund. The vote also extended the current agreement with ABL Management, Inc., to feed the prisoners until Dec. 31, as the contract was to expire at the end of this month.

A budget amendment was also approved as part of the motion. County attorney Eddie Jackson said the rates under the old ABL contract would remain in effect during the extension.

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said after the meeting that was to allow more time for the sheriff to make the transition, something that Sheriff Jim Underwood had complained about.

“If the law says I am supposed to do that, I don’t have any problem with it,” Underwood said earlier this month. “The problem I have is that they have me notice that on Oct. 31 they were not going to feed the prisoners anymore.” He said with a contract like that valued at $300,000, that has to be bid out.

“I don’t have time to bid it out,” he said, noting he is short on personnel to do that work. “If they give me a little more heads up, put something in writing a few months back and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to take this over,’ I could probably have already been prepared for this. But to give me like a 29-day notice and I have to bid this out, it is not reasonable to me. I’ll put it that way.” 

Aderholt voted against the motion. Later in the day, he issued a statement on the vote when requested for a comment by the Daily Mountain Eagle.

“We voted two weeks ago to end the third party food service contract at the Jail and allow the sheriff to directly receive the $1.75 per inmate per day from the Alabama Department of Corrections and use inmate labor to feed the jail population,” he said. “There were several good reasons to end the contract, but the biggest reason was the savings it creates under our current budget constraints. Alabama sheriffs feeding inmates using local vendors is a practice that is done by 61 other counties in Alabama. It’s also the way it was done in our county jail prior to 2008.

“Since we voted to end the food service contract and allow the sheriff to take over feeding inmates Nov. 1, I haven’t received any information that he’s made any effort to purchase any food to prepared or prepare for in-house food services. There’s been no indication that I’m aware of as to why he can’t meet the Nov. 1 deadline. I haven’t gotten a clear indication from the attorney the Sheriff retained in Gadsden, Ala., as to why the sheriff doesn’t want to work with the commission. I was sent a draft lawsuit prepared by the Gadsden attorney indicating the sheriff might sue the commission, but no answer as to why he hasn’t prepared to feed the inmates or any indication he lacks the ability to do so.

“I voted ‘NO’ to extending the current food services contract an additional 60 days simply because the sheriff didn’t ask us to extend it — just the threat of another lawsuit when we all should be working together to make our county better. The sheriff has the ability and resources to carry out the duty to feed inmates but simply refuses to do so. It’s an unnecessary cost to taxpayers in a crucial time to make necessary decisions.”

The executive session and the vote on the food contract came at the end of the meeting. No general discussion by the commissioners was held at the end of the meeting, which is usually a normal practice. An observer at the meeting who had waited through the executive session noted that it was on the agenda at the end, but Bishop said commissioners felt like observers would be ready to leave by that point, which was 90 minutes into the meeting.”