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Public hearings set to garner jail feedback

The public is being invited to give its feedback on the construction of a new pike County jail at two meetings to be held next week.

The meetings were announced Monday night at the regular meeting of the Pike County Commission.

The commission will not be hosting the hearings, however. Instead, TCU Consulting Services, a third party firm hired by the commission to conduct a feasibility study for the jail, will host the two meetings, one in Troy and one in Brundidge.

“When you have a project that is as important to Pike county as this new jail, and whatever other pieces of the puzzle may go with it, it makes a lot of sense to get some good public input to make a decision in the best interest of all of Pike County,” said Ken Upchurch, cofounder of TCU.

The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 19 at Brundidge Station from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. A second meeting will be held in the main courtroom of the Pike County Courthouse Thursday, February 21 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The commission will not be conducting the hearing and will not be speaking or answering questions; the commissioners said the purpose of this meeting is to get all questions, concerns and ideas from the public so that the commission can consider the public’s feedback and come up with solutions or answers later in the process.

Commissioner Charlie Harris, District 5, said the contract with TCU only allowed the consultant to hold “public meetings” and not “public hearings.” “There’s a difference between the two,” Harris said. “Nobody can go out and hold a public hearing for the county commission. It’s not in the minutes or the contract.”

To clarify that potential issue, the commission voted unanimously to amend the contract to change the wording to include public meetings and hearings.

Among the topics discussed at the two meetings will be the eight options that TCU has studied and prepared renderings of for the commission.

One option is moving the jail offsite to the current location of the Dunbar Drive community, which is one of the properties of the Troy Housing Authority.

The commission voted 4-2 after executive session Monday to approve a letter to the housing authority stating the commission’s interest in the property if the housing authority does decide to sell it.

“It’s not binding to anything, we just found out that we have to submit a letter that we’re interested in the property if we are going to consider it,” said Chairman Robin Sullivan, District 2.

Commissioners Harris and Homer Wright, District 1, opposed the motion. Both commissioners have voiced opposition to the consideration of the Dunbar property as a potential jail site. Harris said the county should only be considering properties that it already owns.

The Troy Housing Authority has announced that they are interested in selling the site, but have not yet put the property up for sale as it continues to go through the process to dispose of the site.

All residents will have the option to either move to another of the housing authority’s properties in the city or accept a voucher to move to an apartment outside of the housing authority, anywhere in the country.

Housing authority officials have said that they do not know what will happen with the Boys and Girls Club, but the site plan developed by TCU has the jail parking lot occupying the area where the club facility currently sits.

The housing authority is not guaranteed to sell the property and the county could choose not to purchase the property.

Seven other potential options were also drafted by the consulting firm. One other offsite option is property currently owned by the county near the Pike County Road Department. The other six options would position the jail at or immediately near its current site. The two offsite options would keep the jail at one story while the other options downtown would necessitate a two-story jail.