County takes over financing of jail food fund

Published 10:19 pm Monday, April 9, 2018

Pike County sheriffs will no longer be responsible for handling the funds for the county’s jail food program.

Sheriff Russell Thomas spoke to the commission in executive session Monday during their regular meeting about taking over the controversial fund.

The move comes in the midst of a statewide controversy over a longstanding law that has put sheriffs in charge of the money for the jail food program, meaning they cover any shortfalls and pocket any surpluses.

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“It’s an antiquated law that dates back to when the sheriffs lived at the jail and the sheriff’s wife cooked for the inmates,” said Allen Jones, county attorney.

Thomas is one of the 49 sheriffs involved in litigation over the release of records pertaining to how much of the money sheriffs are pocketing after feeding the inmates.

The state provides each sheriff with $1.75 per inmate per day to cover the cost of food, which will now be directed to the Pike County Commission instead of the sheriff according to the intent of the resolution, which the commission passed unanimously.

Thomas spoke to the commission behind closed doors, which Jones said was due to the litigation surrounding the issue and potential county involvement in those legal proceedings.

Jones said, however, that any surplus leftover would only amount to “a few thousand dollars” each year. Whatever is left over, he said, will go back into maintaining the jail.

Although the county is taking over the funding of the program, Jones said Thomas will continue to run the administration of the program such as ordering the food.

The county took action earlier in the meeting to begin the process of pursuing the vacation of a portion of County Road 7724 so that Rex Lumber can situate their facility in the area. In conjunction with the beginning of that process, the commission also approved an application to seek $500,000 in grant funding to resurface a portion of County Road 7714 for industrial access to Rex Lumber.

County Engineer Rusell Oliver said that the vacated portion of 7724 will later be relocated to the north of the lumber facility.

“Right now it is a county road,” Jones said. “The liability, as long as it is a county road, is on the county no matter what they’re doing out there.”

Oliver said the prcess will follow the same basic process as the recent vacation of a portion of County Road 7717 to Lockheed Martin. A public hearing will be held before the commission votes on whether to vacate the road.

Oliver also reminded the commission that the county has partnered with People Against a Littered State (PALS) to organize a countywide cleanup campaign from April 21 – 28 with bags available at the road department and other locations.

The commission discussed joining opioid litigation in executive session before coming out to vote unanimously on joining with the City of Troy in partnering with Jinks and Crow for recovering damages from opioid abuse in the county.

The commission also used the executive session period to review applicants for the position of county administrator as well, blocking the meeting from public view so that they could discuss the job-seekers’ good name and character.

The commission voted unanimously to move their next meeting from Monday, April,  23 to Tuesday, April 24 due to county offices being closed Monday in observance of Confederate Memorial Day.

The meeting will be held upstairs at the Pike County Health Department.

The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and the business meeting will follow at 6 p.m.