Florala still considering city jail

Published 12:57 am Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Florala City Council’s Monday meeting included time to consider the feasibility of re-opening the city jail, and Police Chief Sonny Bedsole said was on hand with some telling numbers.

“These are all estimates,” Bedsole stressed, before laying out the projected costs associated with housing suspects in Florala, rather than the current procedure of transporting them to the county jail in Andalusia.

“It is approximately 54 miles to the Andalusia jail and back,” Bedsole said. “That adds up to about $31 a trip. Let’s say we average 20 trips a month. That adds up to around $7,500 a year.”

Bedsole said, while those numbers may look large for just transportation, when all other costs are factored in, preliminary figures suggest the city would actually see an increase in costs of around $5,600 should they re-open the jail.

Bedsole said those numbers include a good bit of wiggle room and reminded the council of the other factors that should be included in the final decision.

“I’m trying to look at the big picture, and in the long run, it may end up saving us money,” Bedsole said. “But those are the estimated numbers right now.”

Bedsole also pointed to safety and a possible change in perception among Florala residents as other factors that may work in the project’s favor.

“We have two officers on duty, and if one is making the trip to Andalusia, he’s gone for an hour.”

Bedsole said when that is the case, the remaining officer is left with only off-duty officers to rely on should a situation requiring backup arise. In addition, he pointed to unpaid fines from residents as a possible revenue stream – one a local jail might affect.

“We have a lot of people out there on the streets that owe the city money, and they know we aren’t going to send them to Andalusia for $31 a day,” he said. “Having a jail right here in town would give us some discretion about how long they stay in and that sort of thing.”

The council voted unanimously to table further discussion on the topic until an architect could give an estimate of the costs associated with the structure’s remodeling. Councilwoman Hazel Lee said an architect is expected to assess the building as early as next week.

In other business the council:

• approved a public hearing for Mon., March 24 at 6 p.m. to allow discussion concerning the proposed Serendipity recovery center. The meeting is conditional, pending approval of the zoning and planning commission at a public hearing scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.

• approved a donation of $200 to an upcoming event organized by the Covington County Incident Response Team. The IRT will hold its annual pistol competition Fri., April 11 at the county firing range in Andalusia.

• approved the cancellation of the Mon., Feb. 24 city council meeting; and

• approved the request for a fundraising carnival to be held at Lake Jackson Sun., March 4 through Thurs., March 8, with proceeds going to benefit the annual June 24th Masonic Celebration.