The Escambia Board of County Commission will hold budget workshops this week. On July 15, Interim County Administrator George Touart repeatedly has told the commissioners that he will deliver them a balanced budget, which will include the county taking control of the jail.
On July 10, Touart is also scheduled to give the U.S. Department of Justice the commissioners’ plan for dealing with the DOJ findings regarding understaffing, mental health and safety of prisoners and staff—Chairman Gene Valentino has asked for an extension but no word if it has been granted.
When the BCC voted on June 20to take over the jail, Touart said that he would provide the commissioners weekly updates. We checked with Commissioner Steven Barry about the updates. He said that he hasn’t received any written updates from the interim administrator, but has been told Touart will speak about it at the July 9 budget workshop.
Rumors are circulating that Touart will recommend privatizing the prison health care. In 2009, Sheriff David Morgan dropped Armor as the private contractor (which was hired by his predecessor Ron McNesby) for prison health care. He saved the taxpayers $2 million.
Dozens of contracts have to resigned over to the county, as well as insurance and FDLE background checks done on county staff. The clock is ticking. BCC takes over in less than 90 days and with each day the chances of reversing the decision and leaving the jail in the sheriff’s hands diminish.
For the sake of the taxpayers–and those in the jail, I hope Touart can live up to his promises. If not, the jail could become a huge money pit, much worse than Morgan’s budget request to meet the DOJ requirements.