Jackson County leaders are discussing a change to courthouse security

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. -- Jackson County leaders are discussing the possibility of changing the Jackson County Courthouse security from deputies to a private company. It's a move county leaders say would save money, but the sheriff says the deputies are invaluable to him where they are.

Three armed deputies are stationed at the two main entrances at the Jackson County Courthouse full-time. County leaders are discussing a change to that: a move to a private company.

"With Jackson County's funding going down and down we're trying to find ways not just in security, but in all the other departments, to try to save money," explained Commission Chair Mike Ashburn. He says the move would do that. "There is about anywhere between 45 to 65 thousand dollars difference, with the security company being a lesser amount," he explained.

But, Sheriff Chuck Phillips says the deputies help significantly right where they are. "I work with a skeleton crew as it is and have been for many years, and we cannot afford to give up the deputy positions at the door because of the work they do to prevent the deputies on the road from coming in," Phillips said.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office is inside the courthouse, so deputies working security are able to take reports and help with inmates in court. "They serve warrants. When people come in they know we've got warrants on them, they help us out there," Phillips explained. He added on Tuesday morning, one of the deputies found drugs on a person coming into the courthouse.

Phillips said he understands the need to save money, but said the deputies in the courthouse help keep the patrol deputies out on the road, which helps with response time in a large county.

"This is what's going to be talked about after the security committee meets after the election," Ashburn said. The county's security committee is made up of different county officials. That group and the County Commission will finalize things after the general election, because there are several commission spots up for vote including the chair.

The new budget does include the private security company but it's still up for discussion. Ashburn said if county leaders decide to stay with the deputies, they'll amend the budget.