No Progress in Jail Contract Dispute

By: Tametria Conner Email
By: Tametria Conner Email

It has been back and forth between Lauderdale County and the city of Meridian over a contract for the county to house city prisoners.

City inmates were moved out of the Lauderdale County Jail Tuesday night. All but one were released by city officials.

As of Wednesday evening, city and county officials still can't agree on why it happened, or what to do next.

But board president Ray Boswell says every time the board tried to negotiate with the city there's been a dispute.

The board says the town of Marion agreed to the increase, but the city refuses, and the board of supervisors says it can't see the rate going any lower than $30 a day per inmate.

Boswell says by the time you calculate gas and transport expenses, it's going to cost more to house city inmates in Newton County than in Lauderdale County. Newton County agreed to house city prisoners for $20 per day per inmate.

Using reminders, phone calls, letters to the city council and city administrators, board of supervisors president Ray Boswell says the county has tried to sit and talk with the city regarding this matter.

"You either pay it or you don't pay it," said Boswell.

Boswell said he only got one response when Mayor John Robert Smith showed up to a meeting Sept. 12. Boswell said Smith stayed 5 minutes and got up and left. The mayor said that's right, because he was not willing to accept the board's demands.

"I can't allow the people of Meridian to be held subject to that kind of behavior by Mr. Florey, Mr. Boswell, and Mr. Newell at the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors," Smith said.

Several board members say they are ready for all of the bickering to stop between the city and the county, that it has gone on for decades and they just need to get along and agree on this jail contract.

In the meantime, the mayor says, starting Thursday, if the city has prisoners they will be transported to the Newton County Jail. The city has a temporary agreement with Newton County to house Meridian inmates. That agreement ends Jan. 1.

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