GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- There are some improvements starting Wednesday at the Marshall County Jail to make it safer. The improvements are part of repair and equipment purchase approvals by the Marshall County Commission that, so far, total roughly $400,000. They're just the start of what county officials said is needed in the facility and sheriff's office to bring it to where it needs to be.
When Sheriff Phil Sims took office in January he inherited a jail that was in dire need of repairs inside and out. One day's shakedown of the jail involving every agency in the county yielded dozens of items including drugs and makeshift knives. A few weeks later, jail staff intercepted contraband 'ropes' that were bringing more items in. "There were several places they were pulling it up from the windows from the ground," Sims said. You can see holes in the thin metal sheeting on the narrow windows from the sidewalk.
A thicker covering is going up on Wednesday. "We're going to be fixing the windows and placing a steel grate across it," Sims explained. "Nobody will get through that."
That's just one of the major improvements, repairs, and additions to the jail and the sheriff's office Sims and Marshall County Commission Chairman James Hutcheson said are needed to get the facilities to where they need to be. "It is very needed," Sims said, "It’s something we have to do. There’s no choice. We have to get it done.”
"So far this year we've approved roughly $400,000 for extra employees, vehicles, some repair on the jail. The sheriff will be coming back to us, asking for more, I think up to half a million dollars," Hutcheson said. That would be to fix the damage inside the jail. A final quote, estimated to be concrete this week, will give the final total.
"We do have the means to finance it out of the Courthouse and Jail Fund," Hutcheson explained.
"It's a matter of safety and a matter of running an efficient jail," Sims said.
"We're doing everything we possibly can to see that come about as quickly as possible," Hutcheson explained.
When the last quote comes in, Sims will bring the information before the Marshall County Commission for approval.