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Pike County Commission disagrees over cost of new county jail

Updated: Dec. 3, 2020 at 10:35 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Pike County commissioners are in a disagreement over the amount of money it’s going to cost to build a new jail in the county.

Plans to construct a new county jail, located off Highway 29 and Dunbar Drive in Troy, are full swing after the County Commission voted 3-2 to approve moving the project from the design phase to creation of construction documents at a meeting in late November.

Commissioners Charlie Harris and Homer Wright voted against moving ahead. Commissioners Russell Johnson, Jimmy Barron and Chad Copeland voted to move ahead. Chairmen Robin Sullivan was absent but said he would have voted in favor if he was able to attend.

“We have already confirmed a consulting firm (TCU Consulting Services) out of Montgomery to help us with the process,” said Sullivan. “Now we are in the process where we can move forward with opening the bids for construction.”

A date on when construction will begin on the new jail has not been determined, Sullivan said.

The new jail in Pike County will be located off Highway 29 and Dunbar Drive in Troy.
The new jail in Pike County will be located off Highway 29 and Dunbar Drive in Troy.(Source: WSFA)

“From the commissioners’ standpoint, we want to make sure we build it for the future so this doesn’t have to be bothered with again for another 30 or 40 years,” Sullivan went on to say.

The current county jail is over 60 years old and is the oldest county jail in the state.

The Pike County Jail.
The Pike County Jail.(Source: WSFA)

“We are in need of a jail,” said Wright.

“Ours has gotten to where we couldn’t repair it any longer,” Sullivan said.

There is, however, a disagreement over the price of the new project.

WSFA 12 News was given an estimate for the new jail back in 2019 - somewhere between $14 million and $25 million. But now there is a new estimate.

“It could easily go over 40 (million) we think,” Sullivan said. “Until we actually get some numbers we really don’t know.”

Sullivan said more funds were needed to add a new judicial complex beside the new jail.

“After speaking with everyone involved in this process, it was determined that we needed to move the court system out there as well,” Sullivan said.

An exact estimate for how much this project will cost has not been determined, Sullivan said.

Wright said he does not agree with the building of a new judicial complex.

“It’s fine where it’s at,” Wright said.

According to Wright, more funds were also needed for a new 911 dispatch center that is set to be built next to the jail. Also, renovations will be made to the current court house to house county offices.

Wright said these projects were never in the original plan, and that consulting company TCU brought this to his attention for the first time at the commission meeting in November.

“I didn’t know anything about that,” Wright said. “My problem is that they have meetings before meetings and you’re not supposed to do that.”

This is why Wright said he voted against moving forward with construction. He said they needed to stick to the original plan and stop making additions that will raise costs without discussing them first.

“You still don’t know what it’s going to cost,” Wright said. “This probably will be $50 million or more.”

Since 2017, $13 million in sales tax dollars has been collected to help fund the new jail. A tax that the commissioners said by law will be revoked after the jail is paid off.

“Once the last brick is laid on the new municipal complex,” Sullivan said.

Wright worries this could now be a permanent tax because of the projects drastic increase in price, while Sullivan said the tax might only be extended by a year or two.

Pike County officials say the $13 million collected in sales tax dollars so far has gone to purchasing the land, architectural fees, and construction.

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