July 31, 2008

County Commission Briefs

By Alex Doniach

Plan for retired deputies falters

A proposal to staff part-time retired deputies in Shelby County courtrooms and with sequestered juries was put on hold for another two weeks.

The Shelby County Commission's law enforcement committee deferred a resolution sponsored by Commissioner Wyatt Bunker to staff retired deputies on a trial basis.

The Sheriff's Office estimates that replacing one full-time deputy with a retiree in Criminal and General Sessions courtrooms, or with a sequestered jury, could save the county about $615,000 and $113,000, respectively.

Yet the plans have prompted an aggressively negative reaction from everyone who uses the courts - judges, the Memphis Bar Association and Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons - who say this could jeopardize court security.

Sheriff Mark Luttrell said he believed the plan was good, but would not work without participation of the courts.

"Folks, let's be practical about it," he said to commissioners, noting that it would be "folly" to push for the plan if the players who live in the system don't support it.

Some commissioners said alternatives were worth looking into, while others said it should be dropped.

- Alex Doniach

Food service going private

Shelby County Commissioners approved a plan Wednesday to privatize food service in the county's Division of Corrections.

In a 6-3 vote, commissioners authorized the county to proceed with a $4.15 million contract with ARAMARK Correctional Services LLC to cook for the 3,200 inmates in the Correction Center out east.

The plan would save the county about $600,000 a year, but would eliminate 32 jobs held by county employees.

Andrew Taber, director of the division of corrections, said ARAMARK was planning to hire 27 people for its kitchen and priority would be given to former employees. The remaining employees would be offered positions within the county.

"There's opportunities for them; they won't just be put out on the street," Taber said.

Commissioners Sidney Chism, Deidre Malone and Steve Mulroy voted against the contract. Voting for it were commissioners Joyce Avery, Mike Carpenter, Henri Brooks, George Flinn, J.W. Gibson and Mike Ritz.

-Alex Doniach

Originally published by Alex Doniach .

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