After the Jackson County Commission announced an investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) into inappropriate surveillance in the County Courthouse, the commission has focused much of its time on security upgrades and policy modifications to security procedures.
The commission unanimously approved a measure to contract out a sweep for cameras in the Courthouse.
The measure is to address the concerns of county employees about cameras in private areas of the building. In public statements commissioners have ensured citizens that there were no cameras in public areas and the issues is contained to private office areas.
"This is definitely something that we need to move forward on," stated Commissioner AJ Buckner before he motioned to have Venable negotiate a contract for a sweep of the Courthouse and the Public Works .
At the recommendation of Ross Boydston, a work order process is being developed to create an approval process for the installation and any modifications done to security equipment in the building.
Currently, a similar approval process exists for security card access to various areas of the Courthouse and the Jackson County Sherriff’s office has final approval over any individual given a security key card and what areas they are able to access — a similar system was proposed for access to security cameras.
The commission also discussed various policy changes.
Commissioner Jason Venable, who is running the County Commission meetings in Chairman Tim Guffey's absence, proposed having department directors present work session items to the commission as opposed to the chairman.
Venable noted that the change was needed as he is not present at the courthouse during the work day.
The commission discussed the COVID-19 leave policy and testing policy for the county government. An issue had arisen in the Courthouse with some individuals obtaining antibody tests for COVID-19 as opposed to diagnostic tests.
Antibody tests return a positive result of the individual has had COVID-19 in the past, but not if the person is currently infected and contagious with the deadly virus.
The commission was also presented with the need to review a policy set in place by Guffey during summer of 2020 requesting that county employees take rapid tests.
Rapid tests — also known as antigen tests — have a lower overall accuracy than laboratory PCR tests and according to the CDC have shown difficulties in identifying the virus in asymptomatic individuals.
As of Jan. 1, 2021, the CDC recommends that negative results from rapid tests of symptomatic individuals be confirmed by a PCR test and positive tests from rapid tests of asymptomatic individuals be similarly confirmed.
It was also noted that the availability of rapid testing has also led to issues and inconsistencies for department heads within the courthouse.
Commissioners stated that they needed to do more research and receive more information prior to adjusting policies regarding the rapid testing in the courthouse.
Commissioners continued discussion regarding insurance funds received to rebuild portions of Jackson County Park.
The two competing proposals involve the rebuilding of the docs or the construction of 15 camping sites at the park. According to Barnes either proposal will likely be profitable for the county upon completion despite costing an addition $200,000 more than the insurance payout of $500,000.
Venable stated that he supported camp grounds, which are expected to bring in roughly $85,000 per year for the county in revenue according to Barnes.
Any proposed projects at Sportsman's Landing were tabled by the commission until a community meeting could be held. The commission is considering scheduling the meeting for March.
The commission will meet again on Jan. 25 at 3:30.