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Commissioners talk next step for deciding jail site

The Pike County Commission got a detailed look at evaluations of four potential sites for a new county jail at its meeting on Monday, April 8. So what’s the next step forward for the commission?

The commissioners have not decided exactly what to do next, although they expect a site to be selected soon.

Chairman Robin Sullivan said he believes the commission will need to select a site and move forward there.

“The next move for the commission is to study the information we received and decide on a site,” Sullivan said “From the commission’s standpoint, we have to vote on what site we’re going to decide on and then have to take the next steps from there, whatever they are.”

Commissioner Chad Copeland, District 4, said two sites stood out during TCU Consulting Services’ presentation of the evaluations and that more public discourse may be needed before moving forward.

“There were issues that came up through the process with the other two sites,” Copeland said. “I feel pretty confident that everybody is going to look at those as big enough problems that they are ruled out. Assuming it’s down to two sites, I’d imagine we’d have some public discourse on those sites. We’re trying to do everything as openly as possible.”

Commissioner Russell Johnson, District 6, said the commissioners are still trying to digest all of the information TCU presented, but believes the next step is to move forward with the selection of a site.

“As far as the site selection, TCU submitted a large amount of data on each of the sites including development costs, acquisition costs, opinion data, and more,” Johnson said. “The six of us have got to decide to take a vote on who wants to go where.”

Johnson said the need to negotiate the best price on the land requires the two undisclosed sites to remain confidential while the commission makes its decision.

Commissioner Homer Wright, District 1, said he is still in favor of locating the jail at the Pike County’s property near the road department.

“As far as I see it, we’ve got two possibilities and we’ve got to make a decision on which one we are going to go with,” Wright said. “I’d rather go with the one we already own the property so we don’t have to buy the land. We could use that million for the operation of the jail.”

Commissioner Charlie Harris, District 5, agrees with Wright in preferring the site at the Road Department, but said he’d like to get more public feedback if an unrevealed site is to be selected.

“My opinion is that we need to go ahead and pick a site so we can go ahead and get started; we need to figure out how much money the jail is really going to cost this county,” Harris said. “I think the cheapest way out would be at the Road Department site; I figure that will be the best site, but that’s just my own opinion. I think the public needs a little more feedback need to know exactly what it’s going to cost and what the site it is going to be. I don’t want to put a burden on this county to pay for a jail for 15 to 30 years or more to pay it off.”

The commission is also moving forward in choosing an architectural consultant to assist in jail design.

“Our next step is to start architectural consultant interviews,” said consultant Ken Upchurch. “We gave the commission an assessment of our recommendations and suggested that we interview five architectural firms; they may concur or may change some of our suggestions.”

Upchurch said TCU will be forming a committee that will include representatives of the commission, the sheriff’s department, the court system, TCU and the public to interview the architectural firms.

Johnson said he isn’t sure when the commission will make its next move, but hopes that the site is selected and an architect is in place by June or July.

“I hope that in the next meeting or two we can take action settling on a specific site and get this thing rolling in the next two months with an architect and site chosen,” Johnson said.

The next meeting of the Pike County Commission will be Tuesday, April 23 upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and the business meeting will follow at 6 p.m.