Jail project enters ‘second phase’

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019

After deciding Monday night to locate a new county jail somewhere other than the current site, the commission is now on to “phase two” of the project.

The commission voted 4-1 Monday in favor of building the jail off-site after TCU Consulting Services, the third party firm that conducted the jail feasibility study for the commission, held two public hearings last week. During those hearing, TCU Cofounder Ken Upchurch showed layout options for an on-site and off-site jail.

Upchurch explained Thursday what the net steps are now that the commission has ruled out the possibility of building on the site of the current jail.

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“What we’ve got to do now is contact the landowners of the unidentified sites and get additional information an those and then we are going to look at the Road Department site and the Dunbar site as well,” Upchurch said.

The commission has discussed publicly the possible options to build the jail on county property near the Pike County Road Department and at the Dunbar Drive property currently owned by the Troy Housing Authority. The housing authority is in the process of trying to dispose of and sell the site.

Upchurch told residents at public hearings in Troy and Brundidge Tuesday and Thursday that five other site options are being considered, but are being kept confidential currently as the commission seeks to negotiate the best deal possible.

Once the commission has the relevant information on all sites, Upchurch said each site will be compared to see the pros and cons of each location.

“We’ve got a matrix of site criteria that we look at: availability of utilities, land costs, site development costs, things like that,” Upchurch said. “We analyze and rank the sites based on suitability, cost and development cost. We’ll be building that document over the next couple of weeks and will then present it to the commission. It will be including the purchase or sale of property, so it will likely be in executive session.”

Upchurch said the timeline of a decision will depend on negotiations with each landowner.

Upchurch said the second phase of the project also includes soliciting architects and determining which to contract with.

“At the same time we’ll be sitting down with the sheriff and jail administration and talking about what they have seen, jails they like and don’t like; jail components they like and don’t like,” Upchurch said. “During that process, you figure out the configuration and layout of the jail.”

Upchurch said that, although the Dunbar Drive property has gotten the most attention from residents, it is no more likely to be selected as the site for a new jail than the other sites being considered.

“If another site comes back and ranks higher than either of the two discussed sites, they would try to make it work,” Upchurch said. “That’s why we’ve got this 26- item criteria sheet; it takes you to a deeper level. Some sites might not have the availability of sewer – on-site sewage containment is expensive to construct. There are a lot of different factors. If Dunbar appraises for more money than the commission is willing to spend, there are other alternatives. If it was a foregone conclusion, I don’t think they’d be wasting their time or money having us analyzing each of these sites.”

Chairman Robin Sullivan, District 2, said the commission still has work to do to decide which site will win out, but it was the right decision to decide to go off-site.

“Not only do we have to look at building a jail, but running and maintaining that jail after it’s built; and the funding source goes away after its built,” Sullivan said. “That bill is written to go away when the last brick is laid.

“We’re not trying to look 10 years ahead, but 30 years or so. We hope this building will last at least 40 years. If you build three tiers downtown, there’s no more room for growth. There won’t be anywhere else to go.”

The commission will meet again on Monday, March 11 upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and the regular meeting will follow at 6 p.m.