Commission to talk jail at meeting

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 8, 2017

A public hearing on Pike County’s jail construction project will likely now be a public meeting for the jail committee to hammer out the details of a feasibility study with TCU Consulting Services, according to Commissioner Russell Johnson.

“The study and public hearing are really going to be tied together, so … we’ve got to ask them a bunch of questions and they need to ask us a bunch of questions,” Johnson said. “We need to come to an agreement of exactly what we expect to be answered in the study. Hopefully at the end we’ll have line-itemed out what all we expect and they’re going to look at how much time and research that’s going to take and come back with letter of engagement at a regular meeting.”

The commission has been working on securing a provider for the jail feasibility stud since the early part of the year. TCU Consulting Services fits the description of the third party organization the commission adamantly sought: a party with no incentive to drive up construction costs, working only for the commission.

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The owners of the consulting service, Ken Upchurch and Percy Thomas, spoke to the commission at their most recent meeting, but no action was taken.  Instead, the commission set a public hearing for Thursday, July 13, to allow residents to ask questions and give feedback on the project.

Johnson said that this step of legally engaging TCU must come first and the discussion between the jail committee and TCU must happen within a public meeting. So to keep from consuming another commission meeting, Johnson said the public meeting would now be used for that purpose.

“Before TCU can give us a lump sum price on what the study is going to cost, we’ve got to have a perfect understanding of exactly what we want them to do,” Johnson said. “They’ve got to make sure they’re not underpricing or overpricing because they’re over-serving or under-serving our expectations. They need to know exactly what level of service we want them to provide.”

County administrator Harry Sanders said the process is changing and proceeding slowly because the issue is so complex and must be done right.

“This is such an intricate and important thing when you only build a jail every 60 years, and so it’s important to get everything right,” Sanders said. “I think everybody just wants to make sure we get everything right.

“The thing is getting everybody in the same place at the same time to have a discussion, and of course we have the commission meetings to discuss and deliberate on all those things, but it’s hard to get that done in a meeting twice a month.”

Another issue the commission is dealing with is the resolution that would levy a sales tax across the county. The commission has received approval from the state Legislature to levy a tax of up to 1.5 percent in most portions of Pike County excluding the City of Troy, where the upper limit is 0.5 percent.

The resolution first made the agenda two meetings ago and commissioners asked county attorney Allen Jones to create a draft for them to discuss.

Jones expressed concern that putting together a broader resolution and presenting it to the commission could be mistaken as the final resolution that the commission would be enacting.

“I told them what they’ve got to do is do a lot of thinking about the points,” Jones said. “It may be best to do some kind of skeleton they can trim down, but what I didn’t want to do is put a document out there and it be misinterpreted as the final resolution they’re going to pass.”

The commission will have to address the resolution again at Monday’s meeting, but Jones was still unsure about creating a skeleton resolution for the commission to review, urging the commission to have more discussion first.

“I don’t think there’s any disagreement about what to do or what needs to be done, it’s just about getting it done and moving through the process and making sure everything’s done that needs to be in the way it ought to be done,” Sanders said. “It’s a very involved and intricate decision that’s going to take some time and it effects so much going forward for the next years and decades to come. It’s a matter of the commission making every effort to make every detail as thoroughly as possible.”

The Pike County Commission will meet Monday at 5:15 p.m. for a work session and 6 p.m. commission meeting to discuss these matters among others.

The commission meets upstairs at the Pike County Health Department at 900 S. Franklin Drive.