Jail study delayed

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Pike County Commission won’t be working with Auburn University to draft a feasibility study on a proposed new jail.

Commissioners had reached out to Auburn officials for help conducting a third-part study to determine how big a new jail would need to be, where it would need to be, how much to expect it to cost and more.

Auburn notified the commission however before Monday’s meeting that they did not have the resources to complete everything that the study calls for, but did offer to help out where they could if needed in the future.

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The commission is seeking a partner to conduct the study so county officials can develop a plan for the construction of a new county jail, and with the elimination of Au-burn University will turn to Troy University for help.

“I think this is the next step that we need to take on this,” said county administra-tor Harry Sanders.

Sanders said that Marcus Paramore, Troy University director of government rela-tions, is assisting in the process..

The commission has asked state lawmakers to bring forward a local bill to grant au-thority to levy a temporary tax to pay for the financing and equipping of the new jail. The tax would raise Troy’s sales tax rate to 9.5 percent and raise taxes elsewhere in the county by 1.5 percent. The tax is expected to generate $2.5 million in revenue annually for the county for the sole purpose of paying costs related to the construction of the new jail, and if passed would expire on the first day of the first month following full payment of the costs. The bill likely will be considered in the Legislature in the first week of May.

Larry Wilke, a Troy resident who has publicly opposed the construction of a new jail, questioned commissioners about the need for a feasibility study on Monday.

“If we need to build a new jail then why do we need a feasibility study?” Wilke asked. “That’s going to be expensive.”

District 6 commissioner Russell Johnson told Wilke that the study would save the commission money by ensuring they don’t overbuild or underbuild and face problems down the road.

The study also allows an independent third party to outline necessities, instead of the contractor influencing what the county decides to build, Johnson said.

When the county initially issued a request for proposals to conduct the feasibility study, Johnson said the only responses were from contractors who would only perform the study on the condition that they would also get to build the jail.

Architectural firm PH&J originally sought the architect contract for the new jail, of-fering a contract that included overseeing emergency repairs to the structure of the jail as well as designing and constructing a new jail. The commission granted the bid for PH&J to oversee only the emergency repairs, deciding to pursue the feasibility study for inde-pendent feedback on construction needs.