Prior to my election as mayor, the history of our county jail expansions and additions was one directly related to increasing inmate population. The year 2011 saw property taxes increased 16.2 cents and monies were allocated to alleviating the overcrowding.
Immediately, the quick construction of a new 128-bed dorm as a lower cost solution of $1.74 million alleviated most of the jail overcrowding problem, leaving only the women’s unit with crowding concerns.
Anderson County citizens were then asked that, while current problems were being addressed, why not make plans to address potential overcrowding for years to come? This new $11 million+ addition of another 212 jail beds would carry us for at least the “next 10 years,” according to then-Interim Mayor Myron Iwanski (Commission meeting 4/18/2011). Not only would the new addition allow us room for growth for the future, we were told, but it would be designed with the latest design efficiencies put in place, therefore enabling a more efficient, cost-effective manner of operating our county jail. In fact, then-Interim Mayor Iwanski said “it’s going to be a whole lot less expensive” and a “much more efficient operation.”
Currently, our jail is certified for 354 inmates. Since I’ve been in office, our county has witnessed a decline in inmate population. As I write today, the current jail population is 319. With 86 of those inmates being state prisoners, that leaves our local population at 233. We are not currently overcrowded.
So why is Commissioner Iwanski leading a charge to initiate the housing of federal inmates as a way to hire an additional 36 jailers to guard what are currently empty cells?
I realize in this day and age that many folks are cynical of politicians and often view our statements as elected officials as couched in political angles to advance our own selves. And so it is for this reason that I am placing many of the documents that have been involved in the current salary dispute online at this Web address: acgovdocs.com.
As the good people of Anderson County, I know you are capable of making your own decisions regarding what you believe is the best course of action for this county, and I encourage you to not only take a look at the documents, but feel free to ask me questions. If you want more information, please ask. I’ll get it. You don’t need my commentary to make up your mind.
As we face the challenges and also the opportunities that lay ahead of us here as a county, where we allocate funds—both funds that we are required to spend and funds that are discretionary and of our own choosing—we need to make bold decisions.
I, for one, view the housing of federal inmates as a business I do not wish our county to enter. I have been advised that we cannot legally make money on the proposition, and as a government, if we are going to subsidize anything at all, we should subsidize positive expenditures that benefit the future of Anderson County and the generations to follow. We should not be using the tax dollars of Anderson County to subsidize the housing of state or federal prisoners.
The years 2009-2011 saw our county’s financial stature tarnished as Moody’s chose to place us on negative outlook. With a new Moody’s rating just released Monday, they feel confident in our current direction, but have kept our rating as negative outlook until we, as a county, can display sustained prudent practices that extend beyond the new direction of 2012. I submit that it is not prudent to raise taxes, again, to pay more than $1 million more to hire more jailers to house prisoners that are not the responsibility of Anderson County.
I encourage you to examine the facts yourself at acgovdocs.com.
Terry Frank is Anderson County mayor.