Letters (Week of May 14, 2008)


Jail project needs some middle ground

 

The cost estimates for the Marion County jail project were reported at last week’s Marion County Commission meeting. The two options presented seem to be the two extreme possibilities with no middle ground proposals.

Why not a new 20- to 24-bed facility that would cover the 25-year county prisoner census projection given by the “jail expert” at the last public meeting on the jail project?

How about taking a look at the empty lumberyard building property across from the courthouse square as a possibility for renovation into a jail?

In these times of high prices, tight county budgets and taxpayer fatigue there is a need to be creative, innovative and thrifty in the solutions to county problems.

The 75- or 78-bed jail proposal is a “jail for profit” scheme that was talked about at previous jail information meetings. Fifty beds or so would be available for out-of-county prisoners on a per-diem basis. I assume this would generate a positive cash flow for the county to pay for the jail and perhaps make a profit.

I have not seen an income-to-expense analysis to know if this is a profitable enterprise. I have heard assurances from officials that only non-violent out-of-county offenders would be housed at the new county jail.

What if the supply of non-violent offenders is low, would the county accept a load or two of violent offenders until a new source of non-violent prisoners could be secured? How much of the operating budget will be provided for prisoner services and what will those services be?

A few things come to mind when thinking of a well-run facility that would rehabilitate and reform rather than just warehouse the prisoners. An in-house drug and alcohol counselor to deal with substance-abuse issues.

A jail workshop could provide vocational training to inmates to increase skills for post-release employment. A computer lab could provide the possibility of obtaining a GED and computer skills that would prepare the offender for the modern workplace.

Many prisoners will have health issues that may require frequent care, in-house medical personnel may make more sense than trips to the hospital.

The services offered could be the source of a number of good paying skilled jobs for properly trained individuals, the question is whether the per-diem charges will bear the expense.

Last week, in reference to the testing of water at Marion Reservoir, County Commis­sioner Dan Holub was quoted as saying, “It’s a moral issue.” I will argue that the Marion County “jail for profit” is also a moral issue.

The citizens of Marion County need a lot more information on the purpose, mission, costs and future regulatory projections for this jail enterprise project.

Harry E. Bennett
Marion

 

Florence city wrong to remove fire chief

 

On April 14 the Florence volunteer fire department held its yearly election for officers. They reelected Tim Parmley as fire chief with the other nominee getting two votes. Mayor Gregg Winn was there to oversee the voting.

After the voting was done the mayor left without saying a thing. On Sunday afternoon, April 20, the mayor came to our house to tell Tim he would not reappoint him and that the fire department would have to revote. We’re not real sure what the reasoning was other than needing new blood as chief.

The fire department has improved with newer vehicles, it received a forestry grant two years ago and this year a $47,000 grant for bunker gear.

Tim has served on the department for almost 17 years and had been chief for 31⁄2 years. This is the first time in the 100-plus years of the department history that this has ever been done, as they are volunteers.

Yes, Tim is still a fireman for Florence. But it is always being said the community needs to work together. So when our elected officials do something like this, does this mean that if we the people of Florence don’t like who is elected as mayor or council members that we can ask for a reelection to get new blood in our city government?

Janette Parmley
Florence


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