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Dunbar could be site of new jail

The Dunbar Drive complex currently under the Troy Housing Authority is being considered as a site for a new Pike County Jail.

Ken Upchurch, the cofounder of TCU Consulting which was brought in to evaluate possibilities for a new jail facility, informed the commission Monday that the firm had gathered data on how the site could work for the jail.

“It’s a very viable solution in the same cost range as the other off-site option,” Upchurch said. “We’ve depicted the courts and the D.A. out there and you can have any or all parts.”

Upchurch had previously presented seven jail site possibilities to the commission including six versions that would keep the jail in the same vicinity downtown as it is now. The one off-site option was on property the county already owns near the Pike County Road Department.

Commissioner Charlie Harris, District 5, said the county does not need to discuss putting the jail on land the county does not already own.

“Let’s back up and think about what we’re doing here,” Harris said. It seems to me this discussion has been already been made and I didn’t know anything about this site being presented to them and now we’ve got it on the agenda to go into executive session about this site.”

Commissioner Russell Johnson, District 6, said all six commissioners discussed having TCU look into the option during an executive session following the prior commission meeting on Monday, November 26.

Troy Housing Authority recently revealed plans to dispose of the Dunbar complex and give vouchers to tenants to move somewhere else or transfer them to another Troy Housing Authority property. The disposition is being planned as part of a transition for the Housing Authority from public housing to a Rental Assistance Demonstration model, which officials said will work similarly for residents while giving the authority a more stable source of funding.

Executive director Debbie Rogers said the application for disposition has not been made yet and there are still many hoops to jump through before it could move forward.

Upchurch said the two “offsite” options at Dunbar and the Road Department are attractive because they allow for a one-floor jail. Building downtown would require building at least two more floors to the jail and future expansions would also have to keep building upward.

“Downtown is the most inconvenient for all of your citizens because of the overlay of parking lots so you have to move parking and you have renovating the courthouse,” Upchurch said.

Upchurch said it will soon be time to bring in the public’s input on the situation.

“We like to have multiple meeting at day, afternoon and night,” Upchurch said. “We also want to get comments from people that can’t come. We’ll bring boards with different options of sites with pros and cons and we’ll talk about their preferences; we learn a lot at those public meetings.”

The commission has not yet set a date for any public hearings on the jail but discussed the possibility of having them in late January or early February.