Florala budget pulls back from DTF, may move inmates

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, September 25, 2013

City officials said to better the bottom line, Florala will begin its new fiscal year with two significant changes in its police department.

First, the FPD will pull its agent from the Drug Task Force. It also will stop misdemeanor inmate housing at the Covington County Jail.

Predicted annual revenue for the upcoming fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 is up by $40,000, while projected expenses are up by $8,000. The city is required to set aside a 10 percent revenue reserve, which is set at $132,000 – meaning that the city is projected to end the year without a net gain or a net loss.

Chief Sonny Bedsole said the city’s decision to bring their DTF-assigned agent “back home” was “purely economical.”

He said in previous years, grant funds have reimbursed participating agencies for officer salaries. That was not the case this year, he said.

“The city can’t afford to put (the officer) fulltime at the DTF,” he said. “It’s through no fault of the officer. It’s a purely economical decision. Beginning Oct. 1, (the officer) will be fulltime on patrol in the city.”

Bedsole said the city plans to continue to be a contributing member of the agency that polices drug cases in the county. Last year, the Andalusia Police Department left the Drug Task Force. The DTF, funded in part by a grant, will now be comprised of officers from the county sheriff’s department and Opp Police Department, with financial support from other departments.

Bedsole said his officer would be made available to the DTF on an “as needed, limited basis.”

As for the inmate housing issue, the council approved a contract with the Covington County Commission for inmate housing – at a reduction of its current rate, said City Clerk Kathy Rathel.

Rathel said the city currently pays $31.96 per day to house an inmate at the county jail. Under the new contract, that rate is reduced to $31 per day – $24 per day for housing and $7 per day for meals. The new contract also removed the 10 percent automatic increase on renewal.

“Based on last year’s occupancy totals, that’s a savings of an estimated $850 per year,” Rathel said.

However, the city council has instructed Bedsole to explore how to reduce that savings even more by contracting with the Geneva County Commission to house the city’s misdemeanor inmates. Bedsole said those inmate numbers vary between 10-15 a month to 30-40 per month.

Bedsole said it is estimated that by contracting with Geneva County, it could save an estimated $6 per day, per inmate.

“So that could be a considerable amount of money,” Bedsole said. “The council has authorized me to see if we can work out a contract with Geneva County. I’ll be sending a letter, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Bedsole said even though the city contracted with the county to house inmates, it’s a city’s discretion how much or how little the contract is utilized.

“Yes, we did the contract, but it’s our choice where we house our inmates,” he said.



Bedsole said he got the idea from Opp Police Chief Mike McDonald, who is also exploring contracting with Geneva County for misdemeanor inmate housing. McDonald said previously the contract would be used to house those inmates who are serving long-term sentences. As of Tuesday, that contract had not been presented to the city council for approval.