Offsite ‘justice facility’ one option for new jail

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 28, 2018

Out of seven options presented to the Pike County Commission for a new jail facility Monday, one stands out based on its location.

Six of the presented options show the new jail being built somewhere in the vicinity of the existing jail and courthouse, whether in the existing parking lot, replacing the current jail or being built on the other side of the courthouse.

The final option, however, would be the creation of an entire “justice facility” on land the county already owns near the Pike County Road Department.

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The facility would be a single story, compared to a three-story jail proposed at the existing courthouse site, and consultant Ken Upchurch of TCU Consulting Service said the layout would come with some economic benefits.

““From a standpoint of construction and growth, it is much more economical going offsite, Upchurch said. “The downside of a downtown site is if you ever have to add, you have some issues.”

The report on the jail study says another benefit of relocating the jail is that it will not disrupt any of the work that must still go on at the current jail at courthouse during the construction.

Commissioner Homer Wright, District 1, said that is what made the option stand out to him at Upchurch’s presentation Monday.

“What I’m looking at is cost savings,” Wright said. “They can build it cheaper out there than they can in the City of Troy in the city limits. That’ the way I look at it.”

Wright said each option presents advantages and challenges, and more time is still needed to consider each option.

Commissioner Charlie Harris, District 5, also expressed support for relocating the jail and courthouse to the new property, which the county already owns.

“If we put everybody out there, we have the potential to build on it in the future,” Harris said. “The other options don’t have as much opportunity to expand.”

Sheriff Russell Thomas said he has concerns though about moving everything further north to a piece of land that is not as accessible to the public as the current location.

“As sheriff, I have got to be accessible to the public,” Thomas said. “Being that far away from downtown and the courthouse would just be an inconvenience.”

Thomas said that if the facility was located out there, it would be pertinent for all county operations to be under one roof so that the sheriff can provide security for other county offices while continuing to remaining close to the jail and courthouse.

If the entirety of county operations were to be moved, Thomas said it would be more sensible to locate it south of Troy so that it is more centrally located within the county.

Another thing to consider, Thomas said, is whether residents in the area are going to support having the facility moved near their neighborhoods.

“They may not want a jail in their neighborhood,” Thomas said. “It’s always been here; people are used to it.”

Commissioner Chad Copeland, District 4, said it is an intriguing option, but one the commission would have to seriously consider the ramifications of before committing to moving the court and jail out there.

“We wanted to look at every option available,” Copeland said. “Going offsite, because of property limitations, has kind of always been on our radar. Looking at the cost and the operations though, if we don’t move all of our operations out there, it may not be feasible. The only other way to go is up. That’s the biggest issue. A single story is cheaper and it gives you room for growth. That site was picked because we own the property and it allows some offices to move back to original courthouse. We want to look at cost and operation so we can make our best decision.”

The commission is in no rush to make a decision on which jail facility to go with. Upchurch advised the commission to take its time and ask many questions because of the magnitude of the decision for the future of the county.

“I appreciate the commission for the work that they’ve done and due diligence to get it right,” Thomas said. “It’s something we need to do right.”