By | June 9, 2023

Rutherford County Commissioners (L-R) Greg Lovelace, Bryan King, Michael Benfield, Alan Toney, David Hunt

Monday night the Rutherford County Commissioners met for their scheduled monthly meeting. The budget was the hot topic right now and will be approved soon.

As usual all departments are asking for increased funds. With the rising rates of inflation that is not surprising. The Commissioners are trying to meet the needs of County departments and yet try to maintain the budget at a manageable level.

It was quite the meeting and I will break it down in several articles however my major concern as most of you know is the Jail and the Sheriff’s Office. We finally have a new jail administration that appears to be trying their best to deal with all the neglect that has gone on in the previous years.

The Jail has been allowed to deteriorate dangerously over the past twelve years to the point that it is now a major liability waiting to happen. The forced closure of the women’s side by the State and subsequent repairs are a good thing, but it is only the surface of the problem.

The Jail has serious, serious issues and in the event that the ACLU gets involved for violation of inmate’s constitutional rights the resulting cost of that could cripple the county budget. Not only could they sue for current inmates but for every one who has been incarcerated there for years. This could potentially be in the millions (or more) of dollars.

We as a county cannot afford this. It is imperative that the violations shown on the inspection report are addressed as soon as possible. I am aware that it will cost a great deal of money, but it will still be cheaper in the long run than multiple lawsuits by hungry lawyers.

The situation at the jail did not occur in the last six months and money through the years had been allocated to fix some of these issues. The million dollar question is where did it go and to whom? We know there was an embezzlement issue in the past, but was that the only time?

Those are questions the Commissioners need to answer but for now it doesn’t matter where it went. It matters that they fix it immediately. They are ultimately the place where the buck stops and only they can fix it.

I remember when my children were little and they spilled all of our milk on the floor. It was an accident but it did not matter, as the milk was gone. We had no money and we had no milk. I was the parent and it was my job to find money to buy more milk as it was a necessary item.

Back then you could sell glass drink bottles back to the store for pennies. I scrounged enough glass bottles out of trashcans to buy milk. It was a humiliating experience, but replacing the milk was ultimately my responsibility.

I then sat the children down and talked to them about asking for help when they wanted milk out of a full jug. It was my job not to be angry but to teach them what they needed to learn so no more milk would be spilt.

Commissioners, the “milk has been spilled” at the jail. It is your job to not only replace it but also help teach those there what to do so it doesn’t spill again. Getting angry and placing blame on the ones that are  trying to deal with it accomplishes nothing. Help those that are now in charge to understand what happened and work together to see that it doesn’t happen again.

This should be a time for a forensic (yes, forensic) audit of the Sheriff’s Office finances for the past five to seven years. You need to find out where the money went so it can’t “disappear” again like it did with the former administration.

But for now you need to find a way to fix it regardless of how painful, expensive, and time consuming that is. Stop crying over “spilt milk” and replace it.  As has been said for years the buck stops and starts with you.