Funding for jail needs makes sense


Let's clean out the notebook ... 

Well, it has been a busy start for Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith. The doors of the Walker County Jail have opened wide open for the him and the Walker County Commission, and  it revealed a sad state of condition for that jail that has been hinted at. 

Yes, prisoners are going to keep doing vandalism and graffiti, but to let it get to that state, with bulb fixture dangling, cells that won't lock, toilets in disrepair and graffiti in all directions - some of it profane and critical of law enforcement - blew the minds of many of us. Frankly, a number of people probably deserve blame; I'm not sure who but whoever it is deserves to be locked up themselves. (Frankly, Smith was wise to do this early so nobody can lay this at his feet.) 

I didn't think I could be surprised anymore until I realized Monday night the safety repairs alone are going to cost between $850,000 and $900,000, and that the commission was going to do it all this year. You can imagine the screams on Facebook, about how the county said it was broke but yet it was going to spend the money. But one has to think about this a minute. 

As it was told to me, the funds are coming from money that was used until a short time ago to pay off the jail, paid with $50,000 of tax revenue that comes in each month. The fund can only be used for the jail. Commissioners did not know everything, but they knew about some of the safety concerns, and officials were saving up in that jail fund to pay for the major things like locks and control boards. (They are now quickly catching up to speed and are in constant contact with Smith.) Plus, in other areas, revenue is up and the belt-tightening measures last year have apparently helped. They want to use the fund this year as opposed to taking out a loan and paying interest. 

Frankly, you can tell even the commissioners are finally feeling like they are turning a corner of sorts on finances and that they are advancing finally. Arranging for the jail upgrades, along with hearing of the E-911 addition and getting the animal shelter back open with new guidelines, seemed to lift their spirits at Monday night's meeting; even the evening attendance was up. 

By the way, we will see how the $10 fee for leaving animals will work. The original idea was $5, and I am not sure how strong Bishop felt about wanting to go up to $10; District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams was very serious about it and Bishop had some reluctance, afterward, possibly. But, as they said, it could always be reduced later, but they do need some funding for the shots and other shelters are charging more than that. We'll see how it turns out, but hopefully most people will understand.

• While we are on animals, to the concerned person who called me about a dog bite earlier this month in Carbon Hill: Police Chief Eric House indicated what happened was a man went into the yard of someone and provoked the dog by kicking it, which responded by biting him. The dog belonged to the resident at that site. The bitten man was treated for a few days at UAB Hospital, was released and has gone out of town, without filing a report. The feeling I get from House is that the dog is not a danger, and that they get a number of dog bite cases like this. 

• Thanks to the Rotary Club of Jasper of sending us a schedule of speakers. I recognized one name: Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, will speak to the group about upcoming legislation on Feb. 26. 

• Word that the furloughed-yet-called-back IRS people who would process refunds are now calling in sick could get interesting. Hearing about TSA agents and others doing that was one thing, but delays in tax refunds might get people's attention. 

• Bill Cleghorn, a regular at Walker County Commission meetings, got up Monday night and suggested the county do a time capsule every 10 years or so. It is a nice idea, but 10 years are usually too short to go to the trouble. However, for Alabama's bicentennial, I could see the county or Jasper doing a time capsule for maybe 100 years; I could also see it being done to mark the economic progress in Jasper in recent years. 

• The Candlelight Prayer Service to mark Sanctity of Life Month has been postponed to Monday, Jan. 28, from 6-6:45 p.m. at the courthouse square in Jasper. There was also some confusion on the date when the new date was announced, but this is the date and time confirmed to me Wednesday. 

• A Love's Travel Stop has been confirmed for Hamilton on Exit 14, and which is set to have a restaurant that is being teased as one local residents have wanted to see for some time. Some Community Development Block Grant funds, like the ones at the truck stop in Carbon Hill, will be available at $10,000 per job, which will be used for road upgrades and turn lanes on County Road 35 and River Road Drive. Hamilton announced it recently failed to get a $5 million grant to widen County Road 35 from Military Street from U.S. Interstate 22, which would have helped as a major industrial park is there at the interstate. 

• Rosemary Blackmon, the executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Alabama Hospital Association, told the Rotary Club of Jasper Tuesday that she is somewhat concerned about the new law that is making hospitals to list their prices for services. She worries some people will see the prices and be scared away without consulting whether insurance could pay for the services. (I would imagine, too, something could be negotiated.) She suggested someone seeing those prices not give up quickly but to call for further details. 

• Congratulations to Rev. Preston Headrick on his retirement, as some of his friends from Walker County will want to celebrate. He will be having a retirement reception at Christ Community Life Center, 1685 Bexar Ave. W in Hamilton, this Sunday from 2-3:30 p.m. 

• I'm told Linda Endsor, chairman of the Walker County Republican Party and the Walker County Civil Service Board, had a successful surgery the other day and is walking some, making good progress. She has had a very rough number of months healthwise, but I am glad she is on the mend. 

• Congratulations to the Pizza Bar in Carbon Hill, which I understand will be setting up a second restaurant in Winfield. I'm sure it will be very successful there. 

• Don't anyone rush to Disneyland right now to beat the crowds and heat. A video blogger posted footage this week, noting this is the time of the year Disney makes upgrades. A big barrier, albeit decorative, is around the front of renovation at the castle, blocking half the view of the structure and forcing guests to make the long way around to Fantasyland. (The structure at least shows photos over the years, indicating more little touches that you ever realized have been made to the castle since the 1950s.)

• While in California, let's moan how things are going for the Oscars. They still don't even have a host, and I don't recognize many of the movies being considered. "Black Panther" got a Best Picture nod, but I think they are only giving in to public pressure; I'm pretty sure without any major acting nominations that film will be ignored.

Meanwhile, some, like director Steven Spielberg, are upset Netflix is now able to get nominations for films, as they are putting some in  theaters for a short time to qualify (although PBS has done that at times for documentaries). I imagine a lot of people will watch Netflix anyway on Oscar night, as the ratings have been down in recent years, and I expect they may tank this year. (On the other hand, CBS executives have to be delighted on the Super Bowl, what with the TV markets in Los Angeles and New England. Perfect for ratings.)