Batesville Police Chief Alan Cockrill and Independence County Sheriff Shawn Stephens briefed the Batesville City Council Tuesday regarding the situation at the county jail.
The sheriff has been unable to recruit and retain enough female jailers. As a result, he is sending female inmates to other counties.
Currently, three female inmates are being held in Lawrence and Jackson counties at a cost of $45 per day per inmate. If those two counties run out of space, the next option would be Craighead County (Jonesboro).
This impacts the Batesville Police Department because its prisoners that are normally housed in the county jail are also being transported to other counties, so the city must pay the cost and provide transportation to and from the jails when they make court appearances.
Chief Cockrill said he wanted to make the council aware because there will be increases in his fuel budget and comp time for transferring inmates. It also takes officers out of the city and off patrol. It affects the county deputies the same way.
Sheriff Stephens said female jailers are paid $11.18 an hour, the same as male guards. Jackson County pays its jailers $2 more per hour and the Department of Correction pays its prison guards $5 more per hour. Stephens told the quorum court Monday that he had recently hired six female guards, but that three of them have already left. He said it takes two weeks to train new jailers.
Council member Chris Beller told the sheriff, “I’m sorry we’re in this position.”
Stephens said he has formed a public safety committee that will be looking for solutions.
Also on Tuesday, the city council decided to accept the second lowest bid on a major water line project.
The project involves constructing a mile-long 18-inch water line on White Drive that will connect to a 24-inch line that serves a large part of town and several industries.
City Engineer Damon Johnson said bids were opened April 12 and four companies bid on the project. Cornerstone Construction of Russellville, Inc., submitted the low bid of $1.3 million. The second low bid was by Boyles Construction Company, Inc., of Paron, with a bid of $1.5 million.
Johnson said he and the project engineer, MWY/Olsson Associates, reviewed the bids, including the required statement of qualifications, and determined that the low bidder “may have limited experience regarding construction of projects of the size and complexity of the project.”
A letter to the city from the project engineer said, “based on our analysis, we cannot recommend to you that the low bidder is adequately qualified to perform the work which was bid.” It further recommended that the second low bidder, Boyles Construction, “appears to be qualified to perform the work.”
Council member Dr. Doug Matthews said the city should follow the engineers’ recommendation and moved to accept the second low bidder. His motion was approved with a 7-0 vote with council member Paige Hubbard absent.
The city council also approved three resolutions Tuesday – two of them dealing with economic development and another with sanitation. All three resolutions were adopted with a 7-0 vote.
The first resolution endorses Intimidator, Inc., to participate in the state’s tax back program. The company has requested benefits from construction and equipping of its new facility in the Batesville Business Park.
Intimidator will receive sales and use tax refunds as provided by state law. The refunds are based on the number of new jobs created by the company in its expansion.
Robert Foster, who founded the company with his wife Becky, told the council that it started with 30 employees and now employs more than 300. The company makes Spartan zero-turn mowers and Intimidator 4×4 utility vehicles.
Foster said the new facility is being built in three phases. If all goes as planned, he said the assembly line should start production in December.
The council also adopted a resolution authorizing Mayor Rick Elumbaugh to apply for a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration on behalf of the Batesville Airport Commission.
The airport is seeking a grant of up to $520,000 to assist the commission in performing runway rehabilitation.
The third resolution approves the execution of a lease-purchase agreement with BancorpSouth to finance two front-load sanitation trucks. The resolution states that the city has designated $648,321 of tax-exempt obligations, including the new agreement, in 2018.
After a brief executive session, the council reappointed Sylvia Crosby to a five-year term on the Batesville Housing Authority Board.
During the council comments portion of the meeting, council members noted the need for limb pickup in parts of the city. It prompted Mayor Elumbaugh to remind homeowners that when they contract with a tree service to cut down trees or limbs, it’s the tree service’s responsibility to remove the limbs.
Reporting by Bob Qualls