Jailer details COVID considerations; county takes on Blair Center

The fiscal court held its second meeting after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Social distancing was in place and all attendees wore face masks in the basement gathering. Photo by Jeff Neagle.

By Jeff Neagle

Editor

Tuesday was a full day for magistrates Sammy Baker and Chris Reeder as well as Jailer Joey White. For all three, the day started with an 8:30 a.m. jail committee meeting and ended with the first fiscal court meeting of the month at 6:00 p.m.

In the committee meeting, White told the magistrates that the jail was down two full-time employees and was having trouble getting applicants to fill the jobs. “I hired two last week and they have already quit. I can’t get anybody in here. I don’t know if it is due to COVID, or the extra $600 unemployment people are getting or what, but we are having trouble getting people.” The result is that employees are being asked to work overtime, something the magistrates and White were trying to cut down to save money.

White said he posted on Facebook that he had a hiring day planned for applicants to come in, fill out an application and be interviewed immediately, and only three people showed up.

Magistrate Reeder said, “Everybody I’ve talked to, that is par for the course, any kind of work.”

The population at the jail is on the rise now. There are currently 109 inmates housed in Adair County, with 97 at the main jail and the remainder at the Class D facility. Due to the increase in population, there is an increased need for cleaning supplies, but White said he is having trouble keeping stocked.

“We’ve run out of cleaning supplies because everything is backordered,” said White. “We do buy it in bulk to try to save money, but I run out of supplies all the time. I’ve had to go buy toilet paper and bleach on my own on the weekend and a bunch of stuff because we’ve run out. I know we are getting it cheaper, but at the same time, it gets put on backorder. We put an order in two weeks ago and I still haven’t gotten anything in.”

White said he believes one reason they do not have any COVID in the jail is because they clean regularly. “We’ve bleached a ton on everything. But right now, we are running short of that. I’m also out of gloves.”

“We have to pass out toilet paper once a week. When a new inmate arrives, they get a roll of paper. Well, that’s 110 rolls of paper a week. We’ve got to have it,” said White.

Baker asked if he needed to be given authority to order the supplies.

White said he did have the authority but wanted to talk to the committee first due to the current ordering process. He said he just needs to be able to order it.

Reeder stated, “Here’s what I’m going to say on this. You are the jailer; you look at your shelves. You know where I stand on money and budgeting. But you’ve also got to have what you’ve got to have. To me, it’s your name on the jail. You’ve got to get what you’ve got to get because on Friday afternoon, you know you can’t get anything until Monday. So on Friday your shelves should be stocked because you don’t know what the weekend could bring.”

Baker agreed with Reeder. “You need to be stocked all the time, no matter what.”

“Especially right now, with COVID, you need your stuff,” said Reeder.

White agreed with Reeder that he would still look for the best deal before purchasing.

Inmates have been allowed out to mow over the last ten days, but each day, White has to send out an email to the Department of Corrections with the time and place each inmate will be working. Last week, officials from the department paid a surprise visit to the worksites to see that inmates were wearing masks, that they had hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies in the vehicle, and that they were following healthy at work guidelines. White said the department is keeping a close eye on the situation to try to ensure inmates are as safe as possible to avoid a COVID outbreak.

Magistrate Baker asked, “What kind of procedures do you have for new incoming inmates for testing for the virus?”

White said that the policy is to go outside and meet the officer. A jail employee will take the inmate’s temperature and conduct the screening outside and then bring the inmate inside. This procedure keeps law enforcement officers from having to come into the jail. Officers only come in if their assistance is needed getting an inmate inside.

“My staff is doing a really good job of masking up, checking our own temperatures, and dealing with COVID,” said White.

Once inside, inmates are isolated to let the nurse see them before moving them to another cell for 14 days. After that time if they are clear of the virus they are moved to another cell. With the population going up, the jailer said it was starting to get hard to do that.

“What about visitation rights? Are there any at all?” asked Baker.

“The Department of Corrections told us there is no visitation, not even through the glass,” said White. “They don’t want people coming in and out because the virus is airborne and could get in the ventilation system and pass it along. Some are able to do video visitation from home through the kiosk.”

Attorneys and Judges are able to call in daily to the pre-trial room.

White said that the auditor had recommended a change to one of the accounts at the jail that deals with inmates’ funds. There are two accounts that function for inmates. One is the Adair County Jail canteen account and the other is the Adair County Jail commissary account. The canteen fund is what we buy and sell items to the inmates. The commissary fund is the account the inmates’ money goes into.

The auditor suggested opening a new account called the Adair County Jail inmate funds. White said he has already spoken to the bank to get the process started and he has given the bank statements to the auditor, who is conducting an audit of July 1 through December 31 of 2019.

Tuesday evening, the court dealt with some standard financial items. In the treasurer’s report, the General Fund cash balance is $47,971.53. Other balances stand as follows: Road Fund $775,552.07, Jail Fund $7,291.73, LGEA Fund $82,411.87, Parks and Rec $36,311.09, ABC Commission $29,496.65, 911 Fund $11,325.54, GRAS Fund $713.54.

Total cash balances for all funds is $991,082.45.

Judge Gale Cowan suggested the court create a Parks and Rec committee to work with the Jim Blair Center. Cowan asked if magistrate Greg Caldwell would serve on the committee again as he had done previously, and he accepted. Cowan stated that magistrate Billy Coffey, who was not present at the meeting, had also told her he would serve on the committee. Cowan said she had received a call from someone willing to volunteer to work on reviving the softball field. The prospective volunteer said he has the required equipment to work on the field and would do so for free. He asked only that the county purchase the required sand needed to update the field.

Cowan said they were also looking at demolishing the current bleachers pretty soon as they were a hazard to sit on. The bleachers will be replaced in the near future. Magistrates were in favor of accepting the help and asked the judge to find out the cost for the sand before going ahead.

The road report shows that mowing and bush hog work is underway in all of the county’s districts. In addition, two speed limit changes had their second reading Tuesday night are will now be changed. Junior (Jr.) Loy Road will have its speed limit lowered to 35 m.p.h. and Providence Road will have the speed lowered to 25 m.p.h.

One speed limit change had a first reading. James Karnes Road speed was suggested to be changed to 35 m.p.h.

Elliott Burton was appointed chairman of the Board of Assessment Appeals. The board will meet on Friday, August 14 at 9 a.m. at the PVA office.

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