Sheriff Pat Williamson


Sheriff Pat Williamson

RENSSELAER — Sheriff Pat Williamson told the Jasper County Council Tuesday night the lobby of the sheriff’s department will remain open because it is already a secure area. He said they’ve been screening incoming inmates for over a month, “well ahead of time.” Now, employees will be screened for fever or symptoms of the COVID-19 virus as well.

Inmates are put into a 48 quarantine as a routine procedure before they are released to the population, he explained, and the facility is already a quarantine facility. They have a full time nurse on staff and a part time physician. “No one gets past the lobby,” he said. They have also stepped up sanitation in the lobby he said. They will not accept any new inmates from other facilities nor will they transport anyone who tests positive for the virus.

Councilman Paul Norwine asked him if crime was down with people “sheltered in.” Williamson said the call volume hasn’t gone up, but there is a concern about empty buildings, including the schools and patrols are being stepped up in those areas. The school safety officers will fill in for extra patrols, and if they are needed, they can help deliver food to seniors in the county who have no way to get food to their homes.

Jasper County Community Services is delivering meals to seniors rather than have them come in and dine, just as restaurants are doing. Restaurants are also offering carry-out services as well.

Norwine also suggested residents vote by mail rather than going to the polling places during the state’s Primary, which is scheduled to be held on May 5 as of March 19.

Williamson reported his office has received enough funding to purchase the Spillman software, which was a costly software that is intended to keep a better database than the current software and is available to use by the fire and police departments in the county as well. Even the county commissioners and council could have access to some of the data.

“We’ve had lots of partners who helped make this happen,” he said.

Since saving the county money for the software, he suggested some of that money could be used to bolster the county’s ambulance services, which are in need of more funding. He also said his office has received a grant to pay for Dr. Pulver’s services as a counselor to inmates fighting addictions, another cost saving to the county.

Most county fire departments are on board with the new software, but he said DeMotte Police and Keener Fire have not agreed to sign on yet. DeMotte Police Chief Tom Jarrette, he said, wants to see how it works before signing up. The software will on online in June of next year, requiring about 12 months of training beforehand.