MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - On Sunday afternoon, a large group of Tallassee residents came together to speak out against building a brand new mega-prison in the city.
“We can stop this,” said Tallassee Resident Leslie Ogburn, who lives adjacent to the proposed prison site. “We need to stick together. We don’t want a prison here, and we’re not going to sit down and be quiet about it.”
On Oct. 2, Governor Kay Ivey announced the proposed site for a new state prison in Elmore County. The location is located off Alabama Highway 229 and Rifle Range Road, just outside of Tallassee’s city limits. The site is one of three prisons planned for the state. Two other prisons are set to be built in Escambia and Bibb counties. ADOC expects construction on all three new prisons to start early next year.
“We don’t want a prison over here,” said one resident. “We need to get that across to the people who are in leadership roles."
“We cannot continue to allow the government to dictate us and tell us what’s good for us,” said one attendee.
“This has not been signed off on. It has not been finalized. Make your voices known and let them know that we as Alabamians are coming together to fight this,” chanted another.
Elmore County Commission Chairmen Troy Stubbs said the community had no idea where the prison location would be until the announcement was made.
“This is one of those things that truly has an impact on a community, and I think that some of the people here are rightfully frustrated that they didn’t have an opportunity to voice their opinions before the decision,” Stubbs said.
In regards to infrastructure, Stubbs said the commission was “not even brought into the discussion.”
“This decision and the steps leading up to it did not incorporate our participation with regards to infrastructure, roads, food plans, right-of-way, etc.,” Stubbs said. “None of that was discussed until after the announcement was made.”
One big question amongst residents and the county commission is why the state is choosing to build the prison on privately owned land on the east side of the county when the state already owns the land on the west side of the county, where three men’s prisons and one women’s prison currently exist.
Stubbs said the commission sent two letters to Gov. Ivey in September and met with her in person in an attempt to locate the prison on the west side of the county without any luck.
“The state has made a different decision, and it has been announced by the Governor’s office and the department of corrections that this would be the location,” Stubbs said. “So while we are grateful that jobs will be retained in Elmore County, and that is a positive, we still feel that state-owned land is the rightful place for a state-operated prison.”
Meanwhile, some residents support the proposed site, including Tallassee Mayor John Hammock, who said the prison would give an economic boost to the county’s east side.
“I think it’ll be a great economic impact for the city of Tallassee,” Hammock said. “We’re going to have the utility sales even though it’s right outside our city limits, and we will be selling them water, sewer, and gas.”
The nearly $600-million-dollar facility would bring in a large chunk of property taxes, Hammock said. And the increase in employees and visitors would boost sales tax numbers.
“I think this is huge for the River Region,” Hammock said.
In regards to safety concerns, Hammock said, “95 percent of the people that go into prison come back out. There is a lot of people walking the streets that have already been to prison and are out again. The main thing is that we stop the revolving door. We want to get these people help.”
“I think the good outweighs the bad, and I think after a few years of operation, you won’t even think anything about it. Just like they do over on the other side of the county,” Hammock went on to say.
Until shovels are in the ground and construction on the site in Tallassee begins, the community said they plan to continue to fight.