Decatur Co. Board of Commissioners discuss solution to prison debt, form committee to negotiate with Bainbridge

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to form a negotiating committee to work with the City of Bainbridge on “finalizing the loose ends of the service delivery implementation,” Commissioner Butch Mosely said.

Commission Chairman Dennis Brinson, Commissioner Pete Stephens and Commissioner Rusty Davis were agreed on to represent Decatur County. The committee has the authority to make any decisions after speaking with Bainbridge officials.

“We will do all we can to implement the program for the benefit of the taxpayers in Decatur County,” Stephens said.

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The committee was first proposed at an open meeting Monday with the Board of Commissioners, where the board, along with Decatur County Prison Warden Elijah McCoy and Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin, discussed the status of the prison and a solution to its more than $2 million in annual debt.

As part of the new service delivery strategy with Bainbridge, agreed upon in March, Decatur County created an enterprise fund with the Industrial Park, the natural gas and water facilities, the Decatur County Landfill and the prison. Revenues from one operation could be used to pay off debts in others.

McCoy said prisons aren’t designed to make money, including the Decatur County Prison, which has been in debt since the 1950s.

The meeting was held to brainstorm solutions on how to solve the prison’s financial issues.

The idea to move the prison inmates across the street to the Decatur County Jail was introduced, but Griffin opposed the idea, calling it “dangerous” and insisting the occupancy limit might be reached.

“We are going to have to totally revamp the jail,” Griffin said. “The employees over there can’t handle what (McCoy) handles.”

Brinson added, “I don’t think the sheriff should have to take those inmates because the whole operation is a benefit to Decatur County.”

McCoy said he didn’t have enough employees for work detail to make the most out of the inmates currently in the prison. Currently, Attapulgus, Climax, the Decatur County Board of Education and Bainbridge are contracted with the Decatur County Correctional Instituted for inmate labor, financially benefitting Decatur County.
To be considered a countywide service, the DCCI would have to provide the labor for free. The other option is to increase the prices on the labor contracts, or increase the taxes in the unincorporated areas of Decatur County.

“I wish we had known this info a year ago,” Commission Davis said. “We’re in this mess because we agreed to (the service delivery agreement), and it doesn’t look like it was a good thing to agree to. I’m hoping we can go plead with the city with what’s going on. But we cannot go up on taxes.”