HomeNewsCommissioners commend Wiser; others question Bush

Commissioners commend Wiser; others question Bush

The December meeting of the Madison County Commission answered a couple more questions for new Commissioners while also giving some other members of the body a reason to look forward to 2023 with reduced spending.

Commissioners gave Sheriff Julian Wiser a verbal thank you during the meeting on Monday during the budget amendment portion of the meeting when they had $100,000 coming back to the county from the Sheriff’s Department.

This happened because Wiser, who took office on Sept. 1, decided to no longer handle the department’s IT in house but instead return that job to the County itself with the department paying the County $100,000 a year for that service.

“We need all our departments to be fiscally responsible, and we can already see efforts by your department to make that a priority,” said Commissioner Mike Taylor, who’s a member of the financial management committee. “We need to do our best to be wise with how we spend the taxpayers’ money, and I appreciate Sheriff Wiser for his efforts in that.”

Attorney Jay Bush

County Attorney Jay Bush submitted a budget amendment for a little more than $25,000, citing work he’d done in the previous six months that’s over the agreed upon pay rate for the position between him and the County.

Bush, who was a Commissioner before resigning in 2021 to become the attorney after his predecessor, Steve Maroney, was appointed Chancellor, said the agreement between he and the County was for him to be paid $7,500 per month for work done with any overages to be brought before the Commission every six months.

“It’s the same agreement the Commission had before me,” Bush said.

Commissioners Aaron Ellison (D-District 7) and Luther Mercer (D-District 1) questioned the need to pay for any overages. Bush said he and his staff are budgeted for a certain amount of work each month and his staff deserves to be paid for anything they work over that.

Mercer’s response was that the County shouldn’t pay Bush’s staff for work he puts on them. That’s his business, and Ellison’s response was that if the agreement is for $7,500 per month, then Bush should be paid $7,500 per month.

Mercer asked about how the contract for Bush is worded, to which Bush said there is no written agreement, and there never has been. He submits a detailed report to the Commission each month of the work he does, which all Commissioners have access to view.

Tony Black (D-District 2) said a formal contract needs to be written up to avoid situations like this before Harold Petty (R-District 10) argued that a contact would be difficult because it would require another attorney to oversee the agreement and Bush’s duties are so vague and broad that a written agreement is almost impossible.

The Commission voted to approve the amendment with plans to revisit the agreement in 2023. Mercer and Ellison voted no on the approval.

Tippet improving

Commissioner Gary Tippet (R-District 7) is improving after suffering a heart attack on Dec. 12 and undergoing bypass surgery the following day.

Commissioner Carl Alexander reported that Tippet is back at home and plans to be back to commission meetings as soon as possible after the New Year.

Jail population declining

Wiser gave an update on the jail at the Criminal Justice Complex.

A few more finishing touches need to be placed on the new facility before inmates can be moved in, but the jail population has been reduced by about 100 inmates since he took office on Sept. 1.

Wiser said he hopes to continue to reduce that population before inmates move into the new facility in 2023. The population was at 516 on Sept. 1 and is just over 400 now including 77 inmates at the penal farm. The annex above the Courthouse that housed a few inmates has been closed since Wiser took office.

Trustee update

County Trustee Billy Burkhead reported mainly on two things during the meeting.

Property tax notices went out late this year, which put that revenue behind typical yearly projections, but Burkhead said they’re making up ground as the office is about $1.2 million behind now when they were $2.5 million behind three weeks earlier.

Burkhead also said investment revenues are increasing. In the past, they were typically just over $40,000 per month, but November’s was more than $200,000 because of a change they’ve made in investment strategies.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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