Sullivan: Jail might cost $20 million

Published 3:00 am Friday, July 13, 2018

The new Pike County Jail could potentially house up to 150 inmates and cost more than $20 million according to commission chairman Robin Sullivan.

Sullivan spoke to the Troy Exchange Club Thursday about how the county government has changed since he arrived in 2004 and about the current situations the county is facing.

In response to a question from one of the club’s members, Sullivan said estimates for the cost of a new jail facility have ranged from $10 to $13 million to somewhere around $20 million.

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Sullivan said there are a number of factors that could affect that price range, including whether the facility will need to house more judicial and governmental offices and where it is located.

“The cost is what we’re going to look at,” Sullivan said.

One member suggested the possibility of housing inmates at other jails while the current facility is destroyed, making space for a new jail to be built.

“That’s one of the things we asked the consulting firm to give us a price on,” Sullivan said. “But it’s expensive to house our inmates at other facilities, so we may not be able to afford it, unless we can use the sales tax money for that.”

The commission in November 2017 began collecting a temporary sales tax of 1.5 percent in most of Pike County and 0.5 percent in the City of Troy to raise funds for the construction of the jail.

So far, Sullivan said, that tax has raised over $2.7 million in just nine months even though commissioners had only projected the tax to generate $2.5 million a year.

“Every bit of that money is going toward the jail, and not anything else,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also explained some of the other possible options for the location of the new jail facility.

One option, he said, is to build the new jail on the parking lot for the existing jail and then razing the old facility to create additional parking spaces while also adding a parking garage.

Another option the county has is to locate the facility on county land near the road department north of Troy off U.S. Highway 231, but Sullivan said that brings its own problems due to the expense required to transport prisoners back and forth from the courthouse.

Sullivan said the local judges have not been favorable to the idea of having inmates “attend” court proceedings through video conferencing.

All of these scenarios and options are scheduled for discussion at the next meeting of the commission on Monday, July 23, upstairs at the Pike County Health Department, with a work session beginning at 5:15 p.m. and the business meeting at 6 p.m.

The consulting firm, TCU Consulting Services, is on the agenda to present its findings, both in a detailed, highly technical report and through a public PowerPoint presentation highlighting the different options the firm found during its study.

Sullivan also answered a question about the process to hire a new county administrator.

We’re still at a three-vote tie,” Sullivan said. “The only way to break it is for four of us to go, so that’s what I’m telling the other commissioners.”

Sullivan, along with commissioners Chad Copeland and Russell Johnson, voted in favor of hiring 20-year county employee McKenzie Wilson, director of personnel and safety, to the position, which was vacated by long-time administrator Harry Sanders in March. The other three commissioners – Jimmy Barron, Charlie Harris and Homer Wright – voted instead for Dr. Lakerri Mack, president of the board for the Boys and Girls Club of Pike and Surrounding counties and a professor in public administration and criminal justice at Troy University.

Sullivan also explained how the county has gone from being unable to pay the payroll without borrowing money in 2004 to now typically carrying over about $300,000 from each budget.

“We’ve gotten better and I hope you see we’re trying to be good stewards of the money you give us,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan talked about the difficulties of paving roads with current funding levels – he said the cost to pave a mile of road has increased from about $88,000 in 1992 to $200,000 now, despite no increases in funding for the repaving of roads in that timespan. Despite these struggles, Sullivan said the county is preparing to pave some roads in the county thanks to an industrial access grant and the 24-month plan the county devised to pave some of the county’s worst local roads.

The roads to be repaved include County Road 2243 from Warrick Creek to County Road 2246; County Road 2204 from County Road 2214 to County Road 2203; County Road 6629 and County Road 4413.

County Road 2204 is the worst of those, Sullivan said, and will be prioritized.

“I’ve had many complaints about that road and I’ve ridden down it and seen how fast you can drive without it throwing you out of your seat, and you can’t go over about 15 miles an hour,” Sullivan said.