Conflict delays Jeffco budget proceedings

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commissioners did not discuss the $815 million budget for the next fiscal year. Commissioners departed a finance committee meeting after a disagreement over the budget that includes giving more money to Sheriff Mike Hale for reopening the county's jail in Bessemer.

As Commissioner Collins said, "Listen I want to call for civility. I would like to call," Commissioner Smoot interrupted, "No, we can adjourn this meeting and the budget won't pass."

Hale says if he gets $4.6 million, he can hire 80 deputies to open the jail including the expanded section.

The Bessemer facility has been closed since last year because of cuts to Hale's budget.  "We believe and are committed to $5 million dollars we can open up the Bessemer  jail," Hale said.

But some commissioners questioned why Hale needed to hire deputies instead of less expensive civilian correctional officers.

"I never understand why we used certified deputies in a jail when we need people on the street and we could have people at a lot less money," said Commissioner Bobby Humphryes.

Hale says the cost savings would only be $100 thousand and there would be a cost. "Yes we can hire correctional officers. However, we lose qualified immunity on that and that puts county tax dollars at risk," Hale said.

Also on hand was Hale's political opponent, Willie Hill. Hill urged the commissioners to delay the vote. "There are lot more issues that need to be addressed. The county commission needs to look into these things before they approve it," Hill said.

At least 3 county commissioners were not ready to vote for Hale's budget without more study of other proposed budgets.

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