Escambia County Politics

No idea what jail will cost county

June 24, 2013

Once it became clear last Thursday night that Commissioner Valentino and Interim George Touart were taking over the Escambia County Jail, Touart and his staff showed that they have no idea how much it will cost.

Though he didn’t know the actual cost, Touart promised no tax increase-which is all what four of the commissioners wanted to hear. The DOJ findings and the possible return to horrible conditions that launched the investigation weren’t their concern. After all, most of the inmates are poor, mentally ill and/or African-American—people who don’t vote.

Though he didn’t know the actual cost, the interim administrator told them that he would operate the jail under its current budget, and he assured the BCC that he can handle the Department of Justice and win the approval for his transition plan.

For the sake of the commissioners (whom the DOJ may hold personally liable if Touart fails), the hardworking detention deputies, who risk their lives daily, and the inmates and their families I hope that Touart fulfills his promises. I hope that no one dies while the jail is under their control and the improvements by Sheriff Morgan and his team don’t get tossed.

We will follow this transition closely, as I hope the commissioners will.

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  • jeeperman June 24, 2013 at 9:16 am

    It will take Amy a year or more to figure that out.

  • CJ Lewis June 24, 2013 at 9:13 am

    In addition to having squandered away weeks that could have been spent researching and accurately calculating, or at least best guesstimating, the one-time and recurring costs of the transition, it sounded like Tourat only spoke to DOJ for the first time last Monday. Valentino, Tourat and Pike should get in an airplane and fly to Washington to talk to DOJ in person. It is hard to believe that DOJ will only accept a one-year fiscal year plan only creating 20 of the missing 95 positions at the Jail. If the Jail is dangerous and violent, as the DOJ report says, and if the reason is a lack of Jail staff, why would DOJ let Escambia County drag out the solution “five or more years,” a phrase I think I heard uttered during the Board meeting?

    There is no need to raise the Escambia County millage rate to fix the Jail staffing shortfall. Escambia County has plenty of freed-up money available next fiscal year to hire at least most of the missing Jail staff. All of the General Fund dollars not needed next year for the Library (to be funded by a new MSTU) and ECAT (to be funded starting January 1 by the gas tax) should be used to hire Jail staff. Either this is a “crisis” as Commissioner Valentino said or it is not. Moreover, the Board should not hesitate to dip into the Reserve to accelerate the hiring process. Long-term, the Jail, Court Security and Law Enforcement functions need to be “fully funded” using MSTUs ending the political budget games.

  • Bubbaz June 24, 2013 at 7:36 am

    and with that Touart succeeds in keeping his grip on his job while at the same time dramatically increasing his power. Call it good old boy nirvana if you will. Can’t wait until Amy delivers the bomb in a couple of weeks and they realize a tax increase is inevitable.