By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Donnell Davis addressed the county commissioners at their Feb. 26 meeting to ask why no public officials had appeared at a Lanier Field event the previous Saturday. Davis added that the children participating in the event, headed up by community leader Merv Mattair, were disappointed that no one from the board had attended.
The question seemed to take the board members by surprise, with most responding that they didn’t know about it, even though Davis insisted it had been advertised.
After the meeting, Commissioner Ron Moore, confirming that he had not known about the event, said that usually when people wanted to make sure public officials would attend a special event, they would come before the board ahead of time, tell them about it and say, “we’d like you to be there.” Commissioner Vickers added that he didn’t know about the event either, but he tried to go to as many as he could, time permitting.
Another thing Davis had taken issue with was seeing Madison County Sheriff Office cars parked at residences, even residences outside the county, and the same cars being used for grocery shopping. He questioned the use of “free cars” and “free gas” coming from county tax money.
Sheriff Ben Stewart took the podium a few minutes later to update the commissioners on the status of the new communications center, saying that the department was looking at a date of April 1 to be out of the old jail and into their new location at the EMS building.
He then took a few moments to respond to Davis’ earlier comments.
The sheriff’s deputies do have take-home cars, he said, a standard policy with law enforcement agencies, because the officers and deputies are on call 24/7 for any emergency. MCSO deputies cover the entire county and must be able to quickly get to a car and answer a call no matter what time of day or night they get it. Additionally, all the sheriff’s newer vehicles were purchased with Madison County’s share of confiscated drug money, not tax dollars.
The MCSO does have one deputy who lives over the county line. It has had deputies living outside the county in the past, as well, and as long as they live in close proximity to the county line, that is permitted. As for sheriff’s cars being used for grocery shopping, Stewart stated flatly that that was not the case. The cars were not for personal use, he said and anyone caught violating that policy would be disciplined, perhaps even fired.
“Our deputies don’t work for a paycheck,” he said. “They can make a lot more money elsewhere.” He cited the example of beginning deputies at the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office making more money than deputies who had been working for Madison County for 20 years.
“They work here because they care,” he said. “There’s not enough money in the budget to pay these men for what they do…I would love to see more people show up at these public meetings and budget workshops where we discuss every penny of the budget, but they don’t come. It would please me greatly if they would show up, be educated and be informed.
“I’m proud of America, and I’m proud of Madison County.”