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Sollie on supervisors, jail and alcohol

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
AUG. 6, 2001
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said his relationship with county supervisors has improved to the point where he has the ear of at least two of them.
In the past, he said, he had little or no support from the supervisors.
Sollie talked about his relationship with county supervisors during a meeting last week with The Meridian Star's editorial board. Sollie also talked about the county jail and a new county alcohol ordinance.
Sollie is now serving his second term. Sollie said he plans to run for a third term in the 2003 state and county elections; he said he does not plan to run for statewide office.
Improving the jail
Sollie said that efforts continue to improve and correct problems at the Lauderdale County jail. He said he is happy supervisors are letting him make recommendations about problems in the jail.
Just last week, Sollie, County Administrator Rex Hiatt and a representative with Inman Construction Co. participated in a three-way phone conversation about work at the jail.
County leaders have been searching for a way to solve problems with peeling paint in the jail. Steel Plex, the subcontractor that painted the jail, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
Sollie said he also has been working to improve jail security by adding razor wire to the top of the outside wall. The wire is designed to keep people from scaling the wall and delivering contraband to inmates.
Previously, jail visitors have climbed the wall and then destroyed jail windows so they could pass items to inmates.
Avoiding escapes
Sollie said another improvement was adding razor wire in the visiting room along the inmate-side of a wall that separates criminals from visitors. The wire is designed to keep inmates from climbing the wall and escaping through the ceiling.
Inmate Derek Houston, in jail on burglary charges, escaped from the jail last spring by fleeing through ceiling tiles in the visitor's room. Houston was later re-captured.
Sollie said that the federal government requires a specific amount of space for each inmate housed in jail. But, he said, state and federal governments do not provide specific guidelines for building jails.
Sollie aid he believes it would be tough to get state lawmakers to approve requirements for jail construction.
Alcohol laws
Sollie said he doesn't know why a recent amendment to the county's alcohol ordinance became such a controversy. The ordinance lets deputies arrest people under 21 for consuming alcoholic beverages.
Previously, deputies could arrest underage people for possession or public intoxication, but not for drinking alcohol.
Some supervisors originally were leery about approving the ordinance, saying they didn't want to leave a young adult with a criminal record. Supervisors ultimately approved the ordinance last month by a unanimous vote.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.