HEARING BACK: Public gives feedback on jail project

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Pike County residents got their first chance to give feedback on the construction of a new Pike County Jail Tuesday at Brundidge Station.

Ken Upchurch, cofounder of TCU Consulting Services, presented the findings of the feasibility study it conducted and some of the possible site options for the new jail.

Although seven layout options were presented to the commission in the initial jail report, Upchurch whittled the options down to two for the presentation: one layout at the existing site and another layout offsite.

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“We’ve already weighed five or six options and we’re really down to two,” Upchurch said.

The layout at the current jail site would have a new, three-story jail built in the parking lot for the jail and would have the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office and juvenile probation storage spaces attached. The layout would also necessitate a two-level parking deck in the area where the current jail facility sits.

“Good news is that it will fit; but there are some challenges,” Upchurch said. “The jail needs to be three stories, and it’s a challenge to monitor inmates on three different levels. But it will fit, that was the first test. This is the most comprehensive, cost-effective solution on this site.”

Upchurch, in response to a resident’s question, said the firm evaluated the cost of filling in a gulley on the northern side of the courthouse and “it never became cost effective.”

Upchurch said even filling in the gulley for parking was found not to be cost-effective.

The other option being considered is an offsite option, which Upchurch said could be at a number of different sites. For the purposes of the presentation, the layout presented was at the current site of Dunbar Drive, which is being considered for sale by the Troy Housing Authority, but Upchurch said the layout could “just as easily be done at some other site.”

Dianna Bascomb, local realtor and president of the Pike County NAACP, asked what would happen if for some reason the Dunbar site could not be sold to the commission.

Upchurch said the offsite layout option would still be on the table but would have to be on another site. In addition to the known Dunbar site possibility and the county’s own property near the road department, Upchurch said the county has looked at multiple other site options but has not revealed them due to the negotiating process.

He said the commission would still also have the option of constructing the onsite layout.

Both options present a jail of approximately 4,100 square feet with 129 beds, based on the analysis of Pike County’s demographics, population, crime rates and other data taken into consideration.

Although Upchurch said the firm is not making a recommendation to the commission, he did share his thoughts about why an offsite jail complex would be more efficient for the county long-term.

“If you look at the costs long-term, I think there are more advantages to an offsite solution,” Upchurch said. “Once you build downtown, you’re through. You either build more than you need today or hope you don’t have to build more in the future; you’ll maximize the site with this project.

“Offsite you’d have all new construction all in a green area, no disruption of the current facility,” Upchurch said. “It gives you the ability to build on site and it’s not as constrained, which allows for different design solutions to allow for expansion and a more economical delivery of construction costs itself.”

Bascomb also asked if the impact on downtown businesses were considered when planning the offsite jail option.

“What’s going to happen is there would be alternative uses of that building and there would be just as many people coming and going through that building; it would just be a different-functioning facility.”

The probate office would still be there, Upchurch said, and the county commission could move back into the courthouse and store voting machines there.

Upchurch said the displacement of Dunbar residents and Troy City School students in the area was also taken into consideration by the commission.

“In my conversations with commissioners, all of those issues are at the forefront of their minds with this decision,” Upchurch said. “They have spoken candidly about the pros and cons of all of that; I have been very impressed with the interaction between all the commissioners and the thoughtfulness and willingness to listen to each other’s point of view … Unless the students move out of the city there would be the same number of students and teachers in the school.”

A second hearing on the new jail construction will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, in the main courtroom at the Pike County Courthouse.