Commission votes on future of Bessemer's county jail next week

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - It will be a big vote next week by the Jefferson County Commission.

Today, the county's finance committee passed a $814 million operation budget. The commissioners will vote on the budget and a separate vote on Sheriff Mike Hale's request for $4.6 million to hire 80 deputies in order to reopen the Bessemer Jail.

The county jail has been shutdown since last year because of budget cuts. Some county commissioners questioned the increase. Some believe Hale can hire civilian correction officers at a cheaper rate than deputies. The sheriff says the correctional officers do not have liability coverage.

Other commissioners say it's wrong to dip into reserve funds to prop up Hale's and other county department's budget.

"I don't think I can. Like I said in there, the numbers aren't sustainable. They are not going to be able...We can take $5 million out of the reserve.... what are we going to do next year?" said Commissioner Bobby Humphryes.

If the commissioners reject the increase, the jail will not reopen.

"We proposed to them what we need to operate. It's up to the them to give us whatever they are going to give us. We are through negotiating. We are going to live with whatever they are going to give us," Chief Deputy Randy Christian said.

Christian says if the commission says no, the sheriff will ask the incoming county commission for the money.

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