Architect hired for jail addition

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 15, 2013

Housing inmates at Covington County Jail was discussed on two fronts at Wednesday’s commission meeting – first in terms of construction of women’s addition and then rates municipalities pay to house their inmates.

Commissioners voted to hire PH&J Architects for the project. A preliminary description of the project describes a 42-bed, two cellblock facility with a nurses’ station, wash room and storage.

“With doing it this way, it cuts down on the interaction between the male and female population since to see the nurse, a female has to cross through where the men are,” Sheriff Dennis Meeks said. “And right now, an inmate does all the laundry, and this way, female trustees can do the laundry for the females.

“It would also cut down on the chance to pass prison contraband,” Meeks said.

Commissioners also agreed to change the way it charges area municipalities to house inmates in the county jail.

“Housing rates were set on a renewal basis,” Chairman Bill Godwin said. “Andalusia is flat rate, where other municipalities had different rates with some at a 10 percent annual increase per year. Everybody was different. We’d like for it to be fixed, so it’s fair.”

Commissioners agreed to set the rate at $24 per day per inmate, and $7 per day for food.

“That’s 95-cents less per day that is presently charged (for housing), and the same for food,” Godwin said.

County Administrator Brenda Petty said, “It’s a small decrease for the smaller municipalities. Andalusia’s been on a flat rate.”

Opp Police Chief Mike McDonald said he’d like to see the $24 rate per inmate reduced even more.

“The rate is a financial burden to us,” McDonald said. “And it’s the same for other chiefs. I realize it costs money to feed and house inmates, but it is a financial burden for some more so than the City of Opp.”

Petty said the cost of inmate medical care is built in to the figure.

“But we could get that lower if we take that out,” Petty said. “(The departments) would be responsible for medical costs and transporting your inmates to get treatment, but it could be something we could work out in the future.”

Petty said the county pays an estimated $24,000 per month for medical treatment at the jail through three-year contract with Southern Medical Associates. That contract expires in April, she said.

• heard a request from Florala resident Angie Hughes to repave County Road 89, also known as Firehouse Road. Commissioners agreed to examine the situation and report back.

• took a funding request from the Andalusia Murals Committee for the Alatax Memorial Park under advisement.

• approved an ATRIP agreement with the state to resurface County Road 73, or Cantaline Bridge Road, and to appropriate an $84,600 match for the project.

• moved the payroll week from Thursday to Wednesday to Sunday through Saturday for all county employees.

• created a network/systems administrator position, which will be included in the new fiscal year budget.

• gave preliminary approval to George Foshee River Lots Subdivision.

• contracted with the state to audit the county’s federal funds.