Maintenance troubles continue at jail

Friday, December 5, 2014

By Karen Hall


One of Sheriff Billy Lamb's jobs is to run the jail, and when he has problems, he brings them to the attention of the law enforcement committee.

"I appreciate anything you all do to help us," said Lamb when the committee met this week. "My duty is to bring it to your attention."

Among the problems is a long list of things which need to be fixed.

"We could probably keep a full-time maintenance man busy here," said Lamb.

"A lot of these are simple fixes, not really time consuming," said committee member R.L. Williams, looking at the list.

"That's all I'm asking -- just get these fixed," Lamb said.

"Maybe we do need a full-time maintenance person down here," said Williams. "We should evaluate it and see if it's feasible to pay someone."

"If we got caught up, the person could go work at the courthouse, or something," Lamb said.

"They're down to one county (maintenance) guy," said committee member Sheldon Davis. "They've got to hire another one. He's not getting parts ordered quick enough to keep stuff fixed."

"There's no reason why they shouldn't order parts," said committee member Mickey King. "We have an agreement with the school system to do county maintenance. We pay two men."

"They're so overloaded they can't get to it," said committee member John Christmas.

"Maybe we need to re-do the agreement," Davis said. "We probably need to call outside help if they can't get to it."

Jail administrator Sabrina Patterson said she emailed and faxed maintenance requests to the maintenance department.

"We need to find out where the breakdown is," said Williams. "Someone is dropping the ball!"

It was agreed that Davis, King and Williams would visit Director of Schools Jackie Abernathy to find out what could be done.

Another topic of discussion was the amount Lewisburg pays the Sheriff's Department to house city prisoners. Lamb said all he could find was a 1979 ordinance which states there is a $30 one-time fee. There are 52 city prisoners in the jail right now, out of 131 total. The state pays $37 per day for housing a prisoner, so what the city is paying is way out of line with current costs.

"We need to get with (Mayor) Jim Bingham," said King. "The city pays county taxes too, but I don't feel we're obligated to keep their prisoners for free."

Davis made the motion to talk with the mayor and city manager to discuss a fair fee, and this was unanimously approved.

Moving on to the next item on the agenda, Lamb reported he did away with the electronic cigarette program when he became sheriff, and $3,500 had been refunded from that. He requested to be allowed to spend it on three radios for corrections officers, a buffer, and a $1,000 evaluation of the tower system.

"We'll have to send it to the budget committee to approve," King said, and this was also unanimously approved.

"It will be January before it comes up," said Davis.

"That's fine," said Lamb. "We've made it this long."

Mike Hardrick of TNWEB was there to report what he found out about the video visitation system, which was installed by a company no longer in business.

He said for about $6,000 he could get the system up and running again, with eight functioning cameras, 38 new handsets, and the custom-designed software backed up onto an additional computer for safety.

Hardrick said this could take less than three weeks once he got all the parts in.

"I will take pictures and make you a little manual," he said, so the system would be easier to work on in the future, whoever was called to do it. "The original was put in so only they could work on it," Hardrick explained. "They probably had a monthly contract."

Committee members unanimously approved to present this to the budget committee as well.

They also approved Lamb's request to proceed with an application for a state grant which would pay to replace the roof and some of the HVAC units on it. The grant is $250,000, but it requires the county to match it with the same amount.