Sheriff warns commissioners jail at risk for decertification

High rate of employee turnover cause of concern at jail


White County Board of Commissioners met June 19, 2023, to vote on several resolutions, including appropriations for the new fiscal year.

David Cranford, of District 2, and Roger Mason, of District 6, were the only commissioners absent. With 16 announced resolutions on the agenda, after a prayer and the pledge, the board got right to work.

All the resolutions passed unanimously with 12 ayes and two members absent except for Resolution 38-06-2023, Resolution Fixing the Tax Levy, which T.K. Austin, of District 2, opposed, and Resolution 39-06-2023, Resolution Making Appropriations for the Various Funds, Departments, Institutions, Offices, and Agencies of the County for the upcoming Fiscal Year, which Kyle Goff, of District 7, opposed.

Resolution 39-06-2023 would become the subject of discussion later in the meeting, with at least four commissioners stating that they did not understand the resolution was the actual budget for the new fiscal year. This discussion began after Sheriff Steve Page explained to the board he would not be held accountable when the county jail becomes decertified.

Sheriff Page said White County has become a training ground for neighboring sheriff departments. He explained the county is losing deputies because White County has the lowest pay in the area. He stated the jail would likely be decertified because of the high employee turnover rate. Several commissioners voiced concerns and said they would like to re-vote on the resolution now that they better understood what they were voting on. Chairman Robert McCormick explained the budget had passed and could only be amended through further resolutions. County Executive Denny Robinson further explained that any increase in spending would also require an explanation of how it would be funded since there were no remaining funds in the budget. The discussions faded, and the meeting adjourned.

When asked to comment on Sheriff Page’s warning of an impending jail decertification, Robinson said that according to the numbers provided by Sheriff Page, the county might actually save money if the jail is decertified. He went on to say the county will have to deal with decertification if and when it happens.

The only other complicated business matter was appointing a new White County School Board member for District 7 to fill the seat vacated because of the death of long-time school board member Kenneth Robinson. Three citizens - Joe Hallums, Gary Alspaugh, and Tracy England Fowler - asked the board to consider them for the appointment. All three individuals were nominated, and a roll-call vote was taken. In the first of four votes, Alspaugh only received two votes and was dropped from further voting. Hallums received seven votes in the second vote, with Fowler receiving five. The appointment requires eight votes. So, a third vote was taken, with Fowler now receiving seven to Hallums’ five votes. Originally, a motion was made and seconded to table the appointment until next month. After learning that the process would have to restart from scratch if tabled and an admission from Hallums when questioned that he had plans to run for county executive in the future and would only seek to serve on the school board until 2026, a final vote was taken. Tracy England Fowler was appointed to fill the vacancy by a 10-2 vote.

In other business, the following resolutions were approved: 

  • Resolution 33-06-2023 – Pedestrian Walkway Across Great Falls Dam
  • Resolution 34-06-2023 – Remove Great Falls Rd from the White County Road List
  • Resolution 35-06-2023 – Updating Regulations for Operation of Ambulance and Patient Transport
  • Resolution 36-06-2023 – General Sessions Litigation Tax
  • Resolution 37-06-2023 – Election Commission Pay Scale
  • Resolution 40-06-2023 – Non-Profit
  • Resolution 41-06-2023 – General Fund Amendment
  • Resolution 42-06-2023 – Drug Fund Amendment
  • Resolution 43-06-2023 – Industrial Economic Development Amendment
  • Resolution 44-06-2023 – Highway Fund Amendment
  • Resolution 45-06-2023 – Central Cafeteria Amendment
  • Resolution 46-06-2023 – Debt Service Amendment
  • Resolution 47-06-2023 – Highway Capital Projects Fund Amendment
  • Resolution 48-06-2023 – Solid Waste Fund Amendment

Both applications for notary were approved: Kenneth Mahan and Jennifer Roberts.

The next meeting of the White County Court Board of Commissioners will be 6 p.m., July 17, 2023.


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