'Devastating'

Taylor Six/The Register

County Sheriff Mike Coyle (left) discusses the "devastating" $300,000 budget cut to his department alongside Jailer Steve Tussey (right). 

The Madison County Sheriff's Office has been the next victim of the county's financial crisis, having been forced to shave off $300,000 from their annual budget, which Sheriff Mike Coyle called "devastating."

The budget shortfall cost the county department four deputies, Coyle told the court Tuesday morning before the budget was approved unanimously.

"This is not the budget that I would have thought," he said. "With all of our accomplishments and achievements that we have been able to do, that there would be a little more priority put on the sheriff's office...This pretty much cuts our legs out from underneath us."

He said he knew things were difficult for the county right now, but that he didn't know what services the sheriff's office could keep providing.

Coyle went on to say the issue of overcrowding at the jail has brought a whole lot of problems not only to the financial situation in the county, but also the sheriff's department on a daily basis.

And while the budget decreased, the sheriff reported how their services to the county had increased over the years noting rises in the numbers of emergency protection orders, domestic violence cases, warrants issued and vehicle searches.

He explained the sheriff's office is in charge of transporting all of the inmates to and from court, including picking them up from other county jails where they can be temporarily housed.

Because of this, the county sheriff's office also saw increases in transportation, up 20% in county limits from 2017, and up 40% for transportation in other counties.

In 2019, the sheriff's office was responsible for 7,845 inmates transported to court, 1,516 of those were out of county inmates. Coyle approximated that his deputies had driven to 100 out of 120 counties for transport means.

"I must say the court has been very helpful over the years, very supportive," he began. "But the financial difficulties that we are facing now will be passed to our citizens, and it's going to be passed on to our detention center and it has definitely been passed to our sheriff's office with the day stress and strain that this brings on with inmates being housed other locations instead of housed here."

Jailer Steve Tussey reported later on in the meeting that this week alone, 145 inmates are to be escorted all over the state by the sheriff's department.

"And that number goes up almost daily," Tussey said. "That is a tremendous workload."

The jailer gave a jail count for the Madison County Detention Center, with 396 inmates being housed in the 184-bed facility, 70 housed in other counties and 41 inmates on home incarceration.

He noted in his jail count also that the jail has gone up 100 inmates since July.

"If that trend continues — I hope it doesn't — but if that trend continues, we have tough decisions and the court has made tough decisions, but those decisions are going to get tougher," he said plainly.

In his judge's report, Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor said that while 2019 was a hard year with tough decisions involving the jail and taxes, he was excited for a new year and decade for a fresh start.

"I am proud of where we are at, I am proud to be in Madison County," he said. "This is a new day for Madison County."

Other business

• Homeowners of Battlefield Estates spoke to the court asking, some begging, for help in addressing the issue of flooding in their homes.

• The court approved the county clerk's budget.

• A first reading was approved for an ordinance that would discontinue county maintenance to Ralph Park Way.

• Three county firefighters were promoted. James Andre and Matthew Cross were promoted from firefighter II to firefighter III. Ethan Jones was promoted from firefighter III to firefighter IV.

The next fiscal court meeting will be Jan. 28, 9:30 a.m. at the Madison County Courthouse located at 101 W. Main St. in Richmond.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.

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