Let’s talk about the Montgomery county jail and dispatch system. The sheriff has said we need a new facility while others say the county is wasting ta payers’ money and the county does not need to do anything. the proposed site is too close to a school, cost too much. I like to do my homework before I jump in so this is what I found.
The current jail and dispatch does not meet current state standards and has not for 10 years. The jail was built in 1975 and replaced a rock structure that was 12X14 feet that was built in 1926. In 1977 there were 195 arrests in the county and a DWI ticket was $3. There was one jailer/dispatcher on duty with one phone and one radio. The Mount Ida Fire Department responded to approximately 50 calls a year.
Fast forward to 2017, 395 arrests, 640 incidents and the deputies worked 182 accidents. A DWI ticket is $720. Mount Ida/South Fork, Joplin, Norman and Cado Gap VFDs responded to 1,000 calls for the year 2017. These figures do not count the accidents that State Police worked, or other calls that Game and Fish, Forest Service LEO, Corp of Engineers, and the calls by S&L, Oden/Pencil Bluff, Pine Ridge, or Bonnerdale VFDs responded to. All this currently handled by two dispatcers who operate two 911 consoles, one fire/EMS dispatch console, and one ACIC console, and five radios. The two dispatchers also must tend to the often full jail capacity (12) inmates. Along with dispatching fire, EMS, and handling all law enforcement for the county and they also collect district and circuit court fines for the county. Oh, by the way, there is no bathroom facilities for the dispatchers so they have to leave the jail to use the bathrooms in the court house. There is no suitable kitchen in the jail so meals are picked up from the Montgomery County Nursing Home. Since there is no common/recreational room for the detainees, state regulations say they should be taken outside one hour a day.
Do the math at any given time there may only be one dispatcher working all communications. If the detainees are in the sallie port this means the deputy must bring someone in through the front door, or the detainees have to be put back in their cells to receive incoming detainees.
There are three cells in the jail. South cell holds five, north cell holds six and one isolation cell equals 12. No female housing is available in Montgomery County and anything over 80 percent is considered full capacity by state code. Now you know why it cost the county approximately $200,000 last year to transport females and males that could not be held in the county. This does not count for the housing in other jails.
The county is asking for two – one percent sales taxes to fund the new jail and pay for staff and upkeep. One percent will be dropped on completion of payment of the new jail. The new jail is proposed next to the county road department with an impound yard next to the fairgrounds. This facility is farther from the elementary school at 1,430 feet than the current jail is from the high school at 811 feet. This measurement is from building to building.
So what happens if there is not a new jail and the state closes the jail down for non-compliance? cost goes from $200,000 to the neighborhood of $1,000,000 a year and this comes out of your property tax not a sales tax with nothing to show for the money spent. Most of the county sales tax revenue is generated from May through September from the tourists that are visiting for the summer.
For every two years in delay of building a new jail the cost will go up approximately 10 percent.
Mount Ida Fire Chief, Montgomery County SAR Coordinator, Part-time Dispatcher, EMT
Editor’s Note: In an effort to promote healthy discussion regarding this issue we are seeking a guest editorial from someone in opposition to the proposed new criminal justice facility. If you are interested please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (870) 867-2821, or stop by the office at 133 South West Street. The editorial would be limited to 700 words and cannot include inappropriate, or slandorous language.