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Baird vetoes jail addition again

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By Jennifer Caldwell

The county commission is not taking no for answer.

On the heels of County Mayor William Baird vetoing the addition of a $1.3 million kitchen and laundry facility to the county’s jail, commissioners are planning a special called meeting to possibly overturn  the veto.

Today at 5 p.m. the commission will convene in a special called budget and finance session to discuss the vetoed resolutions.  

Baird’s veto can be overturned with a simple majority vote by commissioners.

 It was the second time Baird exercised his veto power during his tenure as county mayor.

During a March meeting commissioners voted in favor of proceeding with the addition.

But as has been the history of matters related to the jail, the project seems to have stopped before it even started.

Plagued with fires and other structural problems the kitchen and laundry facility, located in what is known as the “old jail,” has long been discussed by several commissioners as a liability rather than asset for the county.

While some members of the commission believe the jail’s current kitchen and laundry set up is beyond repair, Baird remains unconvinced.

On Monday the mayor said the purpose for his veto was to slow the process down.

“There is stimulus money that is coming for energy improvements if we will wait for it,” Baird said confident the county will be able to use the money to improve the current facility.

According to Baird, the stimulus money in question can only be used to make improvements to existing structures and not for the construction of new buildings.

In his action, Baird also chose to veto the resolution allowing for the purchase of a grinder/auger for the jail’s sewer system.  While Baird admitted the equipment is something the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is going to require, he said he wants this resolution completely severed from the resolution to build the kitchen and laundry facility.

Baird maintains that with uncertain economic times on the horizon the county needs to conserve all of the financial resources it can.

Stan Marlow, 5th district commissioner and jail committee member sees things differently.

After experiencing another fire just last week, Marlow said a new kitchen and laundry facility has now become a necessity.

“Somebody is going to get hurt over there.  It’s just a matter of time before we get sued,” Marlow said of his concern about what he deems very real safety concerns with the existing structure.

While Baird maintains a feasibility study on renovating the old jail is forthcoming, Marlow maintain there is nothing feasible about a renovation.

“I’m a contractor and I can tell you it’s (the current kitchen and laundry) is beyond repair.  If people are saying we don’t need a facility they haven’t seen the kitchen,” Marlow asserted.