Renovations to the Jasper County Jail in Carthage may force new Sheriff Randee Kaiser to house prisoners temporarily in other jails, so the commissioners on Tuesday instructed Kaiser to start the process of seeking bids for the service.
The issue was discussed at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Jasper County Commissioners.
Kaiser said he would contact other counties and advertise for bids for an annual contract with a fixed price per prisoner per day, then bring the bids back to the commissioners at a future meeting.
“We are in the process of remodeling and there is a chance we may need to take prisoners out to get in to do the work,” Kaiser said after the meeting. “We don’t know for sure, and we probably won’t have to, but we want to be prepared if we have to do so, and have prices available.”
Housing prisoners in other counties was a source of contention between the commissioners and the previous Sheriff, Archie Dunn, over the past two years.
It led to a lawsuit by Henry County against Jasper County and Sheriff Dunn that was filed last year, seeking $134,000 for housing Jasper County prisoners there. That suit was settled earlier this month, with Jasper County paying Henry County $50,000.
The commissioners had refused to pay the bill for housing prisoners outside the county because they said Dunn had failed to obtain bids for the service. Dunn said he was forced to house prisoners in other counties because of overcrowding and a letter threatening a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, but the commissioners said Dunn’s action was pay back for their action taking the Law Enforcement Sales Tax Grant Board away from the sheriff’s office and naming an independent board to oversee those grants.
The commissioners made the change to the grant board, which distributes Law Enforcement Sales Tax money to smaller police departments in the county, in April 2011 and Dunn started housing prisoners in other counties immediately after that.
In a related matter, Jasper County Assistant Prosecutor Norman Rouse said he had received the final paperwork on the court settlement with Henry County and everything seemed to be in order.
All that is now required to settle the suit is for Jasper County to cut the check to Henry County.
In other business, the commissioners declared surplus more than 20 vehicles formerly used by the sheriff’s office and ordered them sold.
Kaiser said the vehicles included a full-sized school bus, a smaller bus and several wrecked and damaged vehicles.
Kaiser said the smaller bus was running, but it didn’t run well.
He said the vehicles would probably not be of interest to any other law enforcement department and most would probably only be good for parts.
Page 2 of 2 - Rouse told the commissioners that the county and Carthage resident Noe Salas are close to closing the deal for Salas to sell to the county the two homes at 514 and 518 E. Fourth St.
The county agreed last week to pay Salas $41,000 for the two lots immediately east of the Jasper County Jail.
On Tuesday, the commissioners voted to seek bids to demolish the two homes and do the dirt work to level out the two pieces of ground.