News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Political reality prevails in latest county jail flap

County Commissioner Stacy George, whose political appeal lies in his populism, was thinking out loud about the Morgan County Jail controversies recently.

"You know," he said, "that darn jail might just defeat all of us."

The jail, of course, is why he's running for sheriff in the middle of his commission term, and the jail is why the commission and the sheriff disagreed so often in recent months.

With U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon having the final say on the number of jailers at the new $23 million facility at First Avenue Northeast and Lee Street Northeast, the public expected the at-times comical controversy to end.

But no. The fence matter needed resolving even though architects didn't include one in the design. Sheriff Greg Bartlett said he needed, and the commission took bids, for a chain-link fence topped with razor wire and barbed wire.

Maverick Mr. George countered that an attractive, wrought-iron fence would resolve safety concerns and not detract from the downtown area that is beginning to redevelop.

Mr. George obviously said aloud what all the other parties involved began thinking once they tested public reaction.

As of Wednesday, there will be no chain-link fence topped with razor wire and barbed wire visible from the two streets. There will be some wrought iron and chain-link fencing on the backside that the public probably won't ever see.

And the main reason for a fence will be resolved with inconspicuous covers over recreation areas so that outsiders won't be able to toss contraband over the wall to inmates.

The jail must have security, but what the sheriff proposed initially would have devastated efforts to bring back the blighted downtown.

The compromise is the right decision, politically and for the city.

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