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Pell City approves 1-year deal with St. Clair Co. for housing inmates (with photos)

PELL CITY -- The City Council has approved a one-year contract with the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office for housing inmates.

The approval comes after Sheriff Billy Murray announced the jail would close for an indeterminate amount of time beginning July 13 while it is accessed and repaired.

The contract was originally brought up during the council’s July 13 meeting but was tabled after Mayor Bill Pruitt expressed concerns about how the jail closure might affect transport times for city inmates. Pruitt said he was worried the municipality would incur extra cost due to the difference in times. 

The contract was addressed by the council Monday with no changes made despite these issues. The contract calls for the city to pay $32.50 per day for each inmate.

“Functionally, what is our option?” City Manager Brian Muenger said. 

He said the city does not own or operate a jail and has always, to his knowledge,  contracted with the county for the holding of inmates.

He added Murray had assured the city arrangements had been made to house inmates in Ashville. Muenger said with these assurances, the conversation became more about minimizing the time out of service for city police officers when transferring inmates to the county jail.

“You’re talking about an average of 60, possibly 80 minutes, depending on complexity, that an officer may be out of service to make that transit,” he said, “so it's a very valid concern.”

Muenger noted that while most city inmates are released via cash bond, there are often a handful who can’t make bond who end up being housed in the jail for longer periods. Police Chief Paul Irwin said he estimates the number of Pell City inmates in the jail is usually between two and 14.

Muenger said Municipal Court will be making some changes to help deal with the transport needs, including signature boding some individuals and working on setting up a remote system so inmates can attend Municipal Court remotely. 

The St. Clair County courthouses have such remote capability already. While Muenger said he was not sure what would be necessary to make a remote system available, he has instructed the court to work with the city’s IT Department to find a solution. 

Irwin said July 13 his department is also taking steps to cut down on the amount of time spent on transporting inmates. Irwin told the council his officers will no longer be going out of the city to arrest someone on a traffic citation and would instead inform people through other agencies. 

The chief said, currently, his officers may have to go to Calhoun or even Etowah County for traffic citations, and he feels it is best to free up that down time.

“We are going to limit it unless it's a victim crime, like assault or domestic violence, or a DUI,” Irwin said. 

In other matters, the council:

  • Approved a resolution declaring a property on Stemley Bridge Road a public nuisance and ordering it abated;

  • Approved an ordinance rezoning property on Stemley Bridge Road from Residential Agricultural District to Office Building District;

  • Approved updates to the city building and fire codes;

  • Approved a deductive change order of $81,000 for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant, bringing the total of the project down to $628,500;

  • Approved contracts with St. Clair County for Central Dispatch, Emergency Management and Juvenile Detention services for FY20/21;

  • Approved job descriptions for temporary employment positions with the Street Department. These positions are being created to deal with labor needs normally addressed by state inmates, who are not available due to the pandemic;

  • Approved a pay differential of two steps for the Park and Rec athletic assistant so the position may oversee concessions;

  • Approved a lease agreement with the St. Clair Community Health Clinic;

  • Approved a resolution appointing 20 election officers for the 2020 municipal elections. The city clerk noted she still needs five more poll workers, and anyone interested should contact City Hall;

  • Approved a resolution regarding compensation for 2020 municipal election officials;

  • Approved a resolution declaring Jay H. Jenkins elected to the City Council seat for District 1, with no opposition; 

  • Approved a resolution declaring Robert Blaine Henderson elected to the City Council seat for District 3, with no opposition; 

  • Approved a resolution declaring William Judge Alverson elected to the City Council seat for District 5, with no opposition; 

  • Approved a resolution declaring Joe Sawyer III elected to the Pell City Board of Education seat for District 1, with no opposition; 

  • Approved a resolution declaring Cecil L. Fomby elected to the Pell City Board of Education seat for District 2, with no opposition; 

  • Approved a rental agreement with the Pell City Center for Education and the Performing Arts for use of Lakeside Park on Labor Day weekend; and

  • Approved a leak credit from Todd Jones Properties on Stemley Bridge Road totaling $1,354.76

Taylor Mitchell, Daily Home reporter covering Pell City.

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