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Judge to decide first issue in Walker County Sheriff’s lawsuit against commission

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Financial trouble in Walker County now has the sheriff and commission in court.

The sheriff has two lawsuits against the commission, both dealing with budgetary issues. The issue focused on in court Friday was about who should pay to feed the county's inmates.

On January 16, the commission plans to stop paying the bill for inmates' meals and to shift the $175,000 responsibility to the sheriff.

Friday, Sheriff Jim Underwood asked a judge not to let that happen. He's concerned he could be personally liable for the bill.

Retired Fayette County Judge James Moore is preceding over the case. He said he understands the urgency of the meal issue and plans to make a decision quiclkly.

Trent McCuskey was administrator of the county jail 18 years. He retired Friday, but was in court supporting the sheriff.

“It's sad because at best you need unity,” said McCluskey. “At best, you need harmony. And both of these units need mutual support. The public needs one government supporting and complimenting each other, not a divided house.”

After the meeting, ABC 33/40 talked briefly with Chairman Bishop, who said the county simply does not have the money to pay for inmates' meals.

“Why does the county want to shift this cost to the sheriff?” asked ABC 33/40.

“Why?” Bishop replied. “It's his job. And we don't have any money. He needs to take care of it.”

Chairman Bishop also told ABC 33/40 the county is still looking for new revenue options, but he wouldn’t elaborate on if that may include any type of tax increase.

Part of the reason Walker County is in financial trouble is because it owes more than $25 million on a bond issued back in 2002. The county's first payment on that bond is due in February.

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