Jail committee seeks comp data, feasibility study

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017

While the Pike County Commission awaits authorization to levy a sales tax to fund construction of a new jail, the commission’s jail committee is researching what kind of facility the county needs.

The members appointed to the committee by Chairman Robin Sullivan are District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris, District 6 Commissioner Russell Johnson and District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Barron.

The committee members have yet to meet formally, but they are gathering information through County Administrator Harry Sanders.

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“Number one, we’ve got to make sure the funding for this is going to go through in Montgomery,” Johnson said. “It’s pointless to go through with this if the funding doesn’t go through in Montgomery. What we’re trying to do is lay the groundwork so that once the funding is solidified we don’t have to wait two weeks to form a committee and start getting information.

“We’re putting the cart before the horse a little bit, but we’re trying to do it preemptively so we can try and take some action.”

Johnson and Sanders said the main focus right now is a feasibility study, which would outline the needs for the new jail as well as estimated construction costs.

“We’re talking to folks at Troy University and Auburn University to see if they have any interest or ability to help us with that,” Sanders said. “They expressed some interest, but they want more time to consider that and see if any agency within university could look that over.

“We’re hoping to receive some info about that soon; it will take some time to gather that information that we’re looking for.”

In addition to the feasibility study, information is also being gathered about what other counties are doing with their jails.

“We’ll be visiting other jails at surrounding counties and getting input from their sheriff’s department’s,” Barron said. “Counties such as Dale, Crenshaw and Coosa to name a few. We’re trying to get input from everyone and report back to the commission with the information we’ve gathered.”

County officials have gathered data from counties of similar size and geographical proximity via the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, Johnson said.

“One of things we have done is gotten comparative data of counties close to us and similar in size and are trying to get all of that stuff in a spreadsheet,” Johnson said. “We want to see what counties with similar populations and similar revenue streams are doing. That would allow us to see that we’re not overbuilding and not underbuilding (and) what it’s going to take to staff it and build it.”

Harris the committee plans to call a meeting this week or next.

The Pike County Commission meets Monday upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. Members will hold a work session at 5:15 p.m. followed by the regular meeting at 6 p.m.