Commissioners approve additional bailiffs, cameras for jail

Published 8:11 am Thursday, November 17, 2022

Troup County Board of Commissioners approved two additional courtroom bailiff positions and the purchase of replacement cameras for the jail during their meeting on Tuesday evening.

Bailiffs

The county currently employs five bailiffs, but as the courts try to clear the backlog of cases that were delayed during the pandemic, that’s not enough.

Court Services Director Lindsay Mobley said two bailiffs are needed for each jury trial, so if there are three trials going on at one time they’re short a bailiff.

“It’s happened a couple of times this year where I’ve been short-handed. So, I’m having to rely on the deputies to assist in the courtroom, which pulls them away from their security responsibilities,” Mobley said, noting that deputies also cost the county more than bailiffs.

The extra bailiffs will also be helpful if someone is unavailable to work, she said.

Mobley said the extra bailiffs would be budget neutral regardless of the number of bailiffs because they are only paid when they work. They are paid by the day, not by the hour, she said.

“When there are civil courts, I don’t necessarily have to have a bailiff when it’s a light calendar. So, I can generally keep it within budget no matter how many positions there are,” Mobley said.

Mobley said the court backlog is likely to continue into 2023, but they have made efforts to speed up trials.

“Traditionally, when [Judge Baker] has a jury trial, she doesn’t actually start a jury trial until maybe a Tuesday because, on the first day, she would take pleas and things like that. So, when jurors are coming in on Monday, they’re not being really utilized until Tuesday,” Mobley said. “Now she has set it up so that when she has jury trials, she’s going to have a senior judge come in and take pleas in another courtroom, so she can actually start her jury trial on Monday.”

The move also prevents jurors from having to sit there being paid for no reason, she said.

The commissioners unanimously approved the additional bailiff positions.

Jail Cameras

TCSO Chief Deputy Jon Whitney advised that they have gone through the jail and identified some areas where they need to add additional cameras and others where existing cameras need to be replaced.

Money for the cameras was earmarked in the current special-purpose local-option sales tax, SPLOST V, but it’s not enough on its own.

Whitney said TCSO currently has $40,144.12 earmarked for jail cameras, but the cameras they are considering will cost $77,910.13, leaving them about $37,766 short. The sheriff’s office plans to make up the difference using SPLOST V funds that were designated for other jail capital projects.

“I need to pull from two other SPLOST areas that were utilized for jail upgrades,” Whitney said, “Those would be for the fire alarm system and other jail renovations.”

Whitney sought permission to use about $18,000 from each of those accounts to make up the difference. Splitting the costs between the accounts would ensure that both are not depleted, he said.

County Manager Eric Mosley explained that the funds in all three accounts were originally designated as general public safety funds on the SPLOST V ballot, so there is no issue with moving the money.

Whitney said some of the cameras that need to be replaced have been around since the 90s.

The camera purchase was unanimously approved.

In other business, the commissioners approved:

  • Permission for the Public Defender’s Office, Probate Court and Solicitor’s Office to apply for ACCG GCIP Grants for interns to assist with the pandemic backlog.
  • A final plat approval for Trademark Quality Homes for the Hammett Woods subdivision. The plat will have nine lots on 50.68 acres, ranging from two acres to 26.13 acres.