GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- The Marshall County Commission approved what is expected to be roughly $300,000 worth of vehicle and equipment purchases for the sheriff's office, and the sheriff and commissioners talked about a jail expansion and improvements.
At Wednesday's meeting, Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims asked the commissioners to approve the purchase of six vehicles to replace old units with high mileage. He also asked them to approve equipment packages for the new vehicles, and for five units the old administration bought but never outfitted. Also, the former administration bought 80 body cameras but didn't buy the equipment to download the video, so Sims asked for that purchase approval.
Commissioners voted to approve all of it, with an estimated total around $300,000. The majority of that money will come out of the county's General Fund budget. "It's stuff we have to have to provide basic law enforcement for our county," Sims said. When he took office, there was a lot that needed to be addressed and these purchase approvals are part of that.
Commission Chairman James Hutcheson said the money is there. "This sheriff has been in office for one month now. About 30 days. We've made a lot of progress and the Commission is going to be behind him," he said.
Hutcheson and Sims also talked about the first steps to expand the jail. “Right now we have a 200-bed jail," Hutcheson said, "We’ve been running anywhere from 240, 250, 280 inmates, so we’re overcrowded.”
Sims said he plans to speak to specialized architects in the next few weeks. In the meantime, Hutcheson has to look at the money side of things. It's early yet, but a bond issue and money in reserve could be an option to pay for the expansion to the existing portion of the jail.
Improvements to the jail are also on the horizon. “Once we get the quotes and the approval to start spending money, repairs will start right then,” Sims said.
"We have the money to bring this jail back up to good working condition, and we plan on doing everything we can accomplish that as soon as we possibly can," Hutcheson said.
He added he and the other commissioners are willing to work with Sims to bring the jail and the agency to where it needs to be. "The people of Marshall County deserve it, the employees in the jail deserve it, and we're going to make it happen," Hutcheson said.