sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Pretty tame meeting, by county commissioners' standards.

Actually, there were some interesting points of contention. To begin with, I was wrong in my prediction that Skip Alston would pull the request for $110,000 for an SRO officer from the consent agenda. His questions about funding were resolved. The schools are going to pay for the position.

"If they'd asked the county to pay for it, then I'd pulled it," he said later.

The commissioners took note of the county's mandate that vendors for A&T's homecoming get permits and restrict themselves to the poarking lot of War Memorial Stadium. Former city councilman Earl Jones spoke to the issue, saying the geographic restriction would "diminish the festival atmosphere."

He also argued that vendors were definitely not given enough notice that they would have to acquire permits. Nine months ahead of time was proper procedure, Jones said.

Alston and Carolyn Coleman expressed their concern, wondering why, all of a sudden, vendors for homecoming needed a permit.

"Why now?" Alston asked. "This has never happened before."

"I don't all of a sudden feel as though there's a health issue involved," Coleman said.

Commissioner Bruce Davis, also a member of the health board, said he'd look into it.

Health was also an issue during the next major point of contention, the inmate welfare fund. According to Sheriff Barnes, the fund contains about $400,000. Barnes wants to pull $5600 to upgrade elevator walls in the jail, outfitting them with stainless steel.

When Davis asked him how new elevator walls contributed to the inmate's welfare, Barnes said, "It's a health issue. Stainless steel is easier to clean."

"Do you not have a building maintenance fund?" Davis asked.

"We are not allowed any excesses because of the way the budget is set up," Barnes replied.

Alston, who questioned the sheriff's use of inmate welfare funds at the last meeting, weighed in again.

"The sheriff is stretching the truth about the intent for the welfare fund," he said.

But then commissioner Trudy Wade weighed in.

"It's utterly absurd to me not to use the welfare fund to pay for this and provide some relief for the taxpayer," she said.

Chairman Bob Landreth made a motion to pull the funds from the contingency fund to pay for the elevator walls while the board studied the inmate welfare fund more closely. The motion passed by a 7-4 vote, with Wade, Linda Shaw, Steve Arnold and Billy Yow voting against it.

This is the second time Sheriff Barnes has come before the board requesting money from the inmates' welfare fund for upgrades to the jail, so it's clear he sees it as a steady source of income. I see it two ways: First, it's only $5600 out of $400,000. Second, why not have the inmates help pay for the jail? Just don't call it "the inmate welfare fund."

Then the schools (Superintendent Terry Grier and CFO Sharon Ozment) came before the board, asking them to approve the $600,000 gained by favorable bids, etc. for the land on which to build a new elementary school. That passed by a unanimous vote.

Then came the resolution supporting death penalty moratorium, then I'm taking a break to check out the boardroom. It passed by a party-line vote. Believe it or not, I'm anti-death penalty. There are a couple of people out there who I do not think should be consuming oxygen. Charles Manson comes to mind.

But one day in jail for me is way too many. In a country based on freedom, putting a guy (or gal) away for life without parole would, in my mind, would be worse than death.


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