Tallassee residents not happy with possible mega-prison proposal

Updated: Feb. 11, 2020 at 5:51 PM CST
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ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - In a new development regarding Alabama’s ongoing, statewide discussions over three proposed mega-prisons, WSFA 12 News has learned of one of the sites under consideration.

The area is just beyond the Tallassee city limits, but some residents are not happy.

“My initial reaction was dismay,” said Rifle Range Road homeowner Alan Parker.

“I don’t support it," added fellow resident Leslie Ogburn.

Parker and Ogburn are friends and neighbors. Both live on Rifle Range just outside of Tallassee, the very road where one of the mega prisons could go less than a quarter of a mile from Parker’s dream home.

“First of all, it’s a safety issue to your family," Parker explained, "and then there’s the important issue of your property values,” the semi-retired resident added.

WSFA 12 News won’t show the property, itself, because no one in an official capacity will confirm the exact location. However, the Elmore County Commission says it’s been made aware that a private prison company spent some time scouting the land that covers well over 300 acres on private property.

“It would literally be in my backyard," Ogburn said, “from my swimming pool, people would be driving by.”

There’s no word yet on whether a mega-prison is gaining any traction behind the scenes. That leaves people like Parker and Ogburn waiting but ready to fight it if it comes around the bend.

“I hope it can be resolved,” said Parker.

There are some residents who are supportive of the proposal, however. Tallassee resident Miles Hathcock says he’s “okay” with the possibility of having a mega-prison in town because of the potential economic benefits that could come from it such as employees, a boost in sales taxes and more utility usage which could, in theory, mean a reduction in utility rates for citizens down the line.

When asked about a potential prison site on Rifle Range Road, the Alabama Department of Corrections released the following statement:

“We are engaged in an ongoing and rigorous procurement process and because site selection is a key component of the procurement process and subject to a non-disclosure agreement, the ADOC cannot comment on any sites that the developer teams may propose for the facilities. The ADOC will not know which sites are officially proposed until the submittal deadline. Proposals are due to the ADOC on April 30. The ADOC anticipates evaluating the proposals and announcing awards in the summer of 2020. Information about the sites for the three facilities will be included in the contract terms.”

Elmore County Commissioner Troy Stubbs issued a statement that said, in part: “The commission’s focus has been and will continue to be supporting the construction of a state prison on or near state-owned property on the west side of Elmore County.”

Not far away down in Bullock County, county leaders, there are actually fighting to keep their state prison. Built-in 1987, Bullock Correctional, a medium-security state prison, has become a major source of income for the county. It could close in the overall shakeup of the Alabama prison system.

Bullock County Economic Authority Director David Padgett said that prison employs 180 people and is responsible for "an annual payroll of $10 million.”

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