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Brundidge weighing hire of lobbyists to get ‘megaprison’

The Brundidge City Council was presented a contract at its September 5 meeting that would engage the firm of Butler Snow LLP as the lobbying agent in the city’s efforts to be considered as a site for the construction of a new correctional facility for the State of Alabama.

The firm’s fee would be $60,000, payable at $5,000 per month. The city would also be responsible for the reimbursement for all necessary and reasonable expenses incurred in providing the services. The fee did not include the need for legal services, which can be performed only by attorneys and legal staff.

The council tabled the proposal until the next council meeting at 6 p.m. September 19, at Brundidge City Hall. Council Member Betty Baxter, District 1, made the motion in order to give Brundidge residents an opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the city’s efforts to locate a 4,000 inmate correctional facility in Brundidge.

Council Member Margaret Ross, District 3, voiced concern stating that the city has already committed a large amount of money, $4,000, for the purchase and renovation of the former BB&T building and another $465,000 in the event the city’s application for a CDBG grant for a splash pad park is approved.

Brundidge City Manager Britt Thomas said the issues surrounding the proposed contract are conceptual based on what the State of Alabama mandates for its correctional facilities.

“What we understand at the moment is that the state is considering four mega prisons or three men’s prisons and a women’s prison,” he said. “Right now, everything is conceptual based on the state.”

The local site for a mega prison would require from 150 to 400 acres within the Brundidge corporate limits or its police jurisdiction.

“What a mega prison would mean to Brundidge is that 750 employees would be needed and many of those would be correctional officers,” Thomas said.

In addition to the correctional officers, the prison would employ administrative personnel, mental health workers, nurses and skilled workers in maintenance.

Thomas said retail traditionally follows disposable income and, with the additional job opportunities, local and area residents would have opportunities for good paying jobs that would translate to disposable income.

“The prison would basically be a city of 4,000 people who are confined,” Thomas said. “With that many people, there would be the potential for a small hotel or motel for visiting family members who could come from places like Mobile, Florence and even Tennessee, as well as other businesses that would serve their needs.”

The reality of the state’s mega-correctional facilities would be several years down the road.

“When you consider the planning, construction, and moving in, it would probably be about five years before the facilities opened,” Thomas said. “If Brundidge should be a site for one of the facilities, it would be a tremendous benefit for our citizens. The facility’s utility usage would stabilize the residential rates for the city’s residents for a long time.”

Thomas said the Brundidge city government tries to put things into place that entice investments in the city and the correctional facility would be one of those things. He believes the mega prisons will be a reality.

“Right now, Alabama is starring straight down the barrel of a gun and it is loaded and cocked,” he said. “If the leadership of the state doesn’t do it, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson will.”
Thompson is a strong proponent of prison reform.

Thomas said Greenville and Lowndes County and a Barbour/Bullock coalition have expressed an interest a mega correctional facility locating in their areas. State governmental officials are expected to give all local governments an opportunity                                                                                                to put in proposals for the mega prisons.