Adams County Sheriff: Jail, justice court need analysis

Published 7:21 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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NATCHEZ — Adams County Supervisors are considering a request from Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten for permission to do an analysis of the county’s jail and justice court facility and the cost of building a new facility.

“I’m asking the board to allow us permission to do an analysis on property and some other items,” Patten told supervisor during the Adams County Board of Supervisor’s meeting Monday. “As you all know, we have been discussing, some of us for five years now, the conditions surrounding the jail and not only that but the conditions of justice court as well. There is a lot of research that has gone on for years.”

Patten gave each supervisor a resolution of intent and some items from previous grand jury reports on the condition of the facilities.

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“These items are non-binding, but some of you have heard this first this year, some of you five years,” Patten said.

As far back as 2014, Adams County judges Forrest “Al” Johnson and Lillie Sanders were advocating consideration of new jail facilities.

“We don’t want to wake up one day and have a condemned jail and not have a plan about it,” Johnson wrote in a 2014 order. “We realize that this is a big undertaking and something this board inherited, so Judge Sanders and I wanted to give some time, but at some point we would certainly expect to hear back with some general plan or timetable that is put for correcting the problems there,” Johnson wrote. “This order will help keep things focused on the fact something needs to happen.”

Since then, little to no improvements have been made to the jail and the Adams County Justice Court is operating in tight quarters.

“This is really just an analysis of how much it would cost and where you would build the jail and it is not a binding resolution,” said Scott Slover, board of supervisors attorney, of Patten’s request. “Although we shouldn’t be requesting it unless this is something that we are seriously considering.”

Rickey Gray, president of the board of supervisors, said he would distribute the materials to all of the board members.

“We are going to give your request to all the board members and y’all need to make up your mind by the next board meeting if we are serious about doing what the sheriff asks,” Gray said. “It does not make sense to make a motion about a resolution if we are not serious about doing it, so we are going to take this under advisement until the next board meeting and give all the supervisors the opportunity to read over it, to research over it to do whatever they need to do because we do have three new supervisors.”

Patten said he had more information he could share with the supervisors.

“I also have a couple of books of things maybe the new supervisors need and you all may need to refresh your memories on as well to see what is going on over there to help make this decision because in the long run it is not that we want a new justice complex, because we do need a new justice complex, that includes justice court as well,” Patten said.

In other matters during Monday’s meeting, supervisors:

-Unanimously approved Sanders setting up a public defenders system with funds already in her budget. The details of the system will be worked out at a later meeting.

-Unanimously approved a dirt request for the road department.

-Unanimously approved a request for 60 yards of dirt from the Natchez Adams County School District, pending a legal review.

-Unanimously approved hiring a replacement for a departing road department employee.

-Unanimously approved extending the county’s COVID-19 emergency declaration and mask ordinance another 30 days after hearing an update from Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford on the COVID-19 pandemic with 919 confirmed cases in Adams County as of Monday morning with 36 deaths, 89 active cases with 830 of those presumed expired and 794 of those presumed recovered from COVID-19.

-Unanimously agreed to close the emergency declaration from Hurricane Laura after the county with $42,000 in damage did not meet the threshold for public assistance.

-Unanimously approved a $285,000 change order, pending legal review, on work at the Belwood levy that will be paid through grant funds.

-Unanimously approved two new hires and two rehires in the Adams County Sheriff’s Office for deputies and jail workers.

-Approved, 4-0 with District 3 Supervisor Angela Hutchins absent after she left the meeting early, to hire an employee in the county’s telecommunications department.

-Approved, 4-0, Adams County Chancery Clerk Brandi Lewis’ bonds and tax redemptions.

-Approved, 4-0, accepting CARES Act funds in order to increase pay for election workers in the upcoming election.

-Approved, 4-0, adjusting E-911 Director Annette Fells’ pay as recommended by the E-911 board of directors, after she completed performance reviews.