ODENVILLE — Officials at Tuesday’s St. Clair County Mayors Association Breakfast said they hope to see legislation that allows pre-trial diversion programs to remain in place.
Argo Mayor Paul Jennings, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting in the absence of Riverside Mayor Rusty Jessup, said his city has already passed a resolution of support. He urged other mayors to do the same.
“We’re not asking for anything more than what we’ve already got,” Jennings said. “We’re asking to keep what we’ve got.”
Pell City attorney Lance Bell explained much of the bill to the mayors, saying that a new state law would take pre-trial diversion away from the cities without some action.
“If you don’t have local legislation that allows for pre-trial diversion, it goes to the District Attorney’s office,” Bell said. “(The DA) would get all the money, and the local court gets nothing.”
Jennings said if Argo were to lose its pre-trial program, it would cut $4,800 from the city’s budget per month.
Bell said he and other attorneys have met with St. Clair County DA Richard Minor, who is in support of the pre-trial programs each city already has. Bell wrote the bill, and said Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, is in support.
“All we’re doing is allowing our municipalities to continue to do what most of them are already doing,” Bell said.
McClendon said Tuesday that the support of each municipality is necessary.
“When I’ve got a local bill that affects a city, I expect the elected leaders of that city to endorse that bill,” he said. “The way I do that, I just ask the mayor and council to pass a resolution – then I know I’ve got the support of the city.”
Pell City, Argo and Springville have already passed a resolution supporting the legislation.
“(The bill) doesn’t do anything to allow somebody to get off the hook,” Jennings said. “It’s just a tool the court already has.”
Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said the county government is in favor of such pre-trial programs, like Community Corrections and the county’s Drug Court.
“Every time we put somebody in the county jails, it costs between $40,000 and $50,000 per year to keep them there,” Batemon said. “What we want to do if we can is to keep them out of the jails, and that’s where pre-trial programs come in.
“We are all in it together. It’s something the cities have to have, and it’s something we need on the county level also.”