Pending murder trials could be costly for county PDF Print E-mail
Written by George Browning   
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 07:16

Washington County Prosecutor Dustin Houchin attended the county council’s regular meeting on May 1 to warn them of a potential expense the county could face in the next year.

Houchin said there are currently three people currently facing murder charges in Washington County and should an arrest be made and charges be filed in the bypass shooting, there could be a fourth.

The pending trials are those of Joe Hambel, Joshua Risinger and Joshua Rainbolt.

With murder trials come added expenses and Houchin said it’s tough to offer an exact amount.

He estimated on the high side that the cost of the three, from the prosecution side, could be in the ball park of $20,000.

“That (amount) may be completely wrong,” Houchin said, “but we are pretty astute with how we handle the costs associated with these trials.”

Councilman Ben Bowling asked if there was any state assistance available and Houchin said not from the prosecution side.

One of the primary expenses from the state’s perspective, he said, is the pathologist, which costs $450 an hour.

“Thankfully, right now, it’s the same pathologist on all three cases,” he said. “I met with her a few weeks ago and we were able to do it all combined. An hour and a half meeting, however, cost me $650. I try to keep those costs down, but if we go to trial there will be the expense for hours of her time and that gets pretty expenses.”

The county is also required to cover the cost of the Public Defender fee for a murder trial, but 60 percent of those fees are reimbursed from the state.

In other business

· Sabrina Burdine, director of the Economic Partnership, updated the council on compliance forms of current Tax Abatements.

Burdine also told the council that a recent job fair held jointly by the economic growth partnership and the Washington County Chamber of Commerce was a success.

“Hopefully, I can talk the chamber into doing another one,” Burdine said. “We had two companies who asked us if we would do another one in the fall.”

Burdine said no one counted the number of people who came, but there seemed to be a steady flow of job-seekers all day.

Finally, Burdine said there have been some industries looking at sites in Washington County.

“We have a couple of really good leads that we are working on,” Burdine said. “We had one come in who was looking for some 20 acre sites and we submitted three or four sites to them. Then we have a bigger one that is looking for 200 acres and we were able to submit one site for that one.”

· County Clerk Sarah Milligan approached the council about instituting an intern program to help her office scan older records from her office.

She said her office has purchased a scanner and using interns would provide college students experience, while saving the county money.

Considering the county is the fiscal overseers and the commissioners are the administrative branch the council guided Milligan to the Commissioners. (See story this section about intern program).

Council President Todd Ewen did express some concerns about who the county lets handle those records.

· The Council agreed to allow Greg Ball, who is the new county assessor, to replace two employees in that office.

They also agreed to replace a full time position at third deputy in the Clerk’s office, but asked Milligan to hold off on hiring a part-time position.

Milligan agreed to try to do without the part-time position, with the understanding that she could come back asking for that position should there be a need.

· Bill Bradford updated the council on several things involving technology. He told them Mainstream is the new internet provider and it is up and running. There were a few glitches when it launched, but those have been worked out.

Bradford said the phones were replaced May 11 and went live May 12.

The sheriff got two new systems, the jail tracker software, which tracks inmates and commissary, Bradford said is up and seems to be working well.

The new 911 dispatch software package is also expected to go live soon.