PAVING THE WAY: County focused on jail, roads in 2019

Published 9:06 pm Thursday, January 2, 2020

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Pike County has had a big year in 2019 with the selection of a site and architect for a new jail complex, the repaving of local roads and more.

“We’re very proud of things we have seen come to fruition in 2019,” said Robin Sullivan, commission chairman.

Coming into the year, one of the major objectives on the county’s plate was the determination of a site for a new county jail or judicial complex.

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The county had six potential sites for the new complex not including the option to build the new facility at the site of the current jail, although that option was ruled out earlier in the process.

In February, the public was brought in on two public hearings to discuss ideas and concerns about different sites.

The only two sites being publicly discussed at the time were the Dunbar Drive property and the county’s property at the Pike County Road Department.

Some residents at the hearing brought concerns about the Dunbar Drive property’s proximity to the local schools, while others came to suggest keeping the jail downtown, and others gave feedback that Dunbar was the most logical site choice.

By July, the county had narrowed the options down to the Dunbar and Road Department sites after receiving further site evaluations from TCU Consulting Services. 

Ultimately, the commission voted to select the Dunbar Drive site for the judicial complex, with Sullivan, Russell Johnson, Jimmy Barron and Chad Copeland voting in favor of the site. Commissioners Charlie Harris and Homer Wright voted against the site in favor of the county’s road department property.

“It took us about two years to get to this point, to choose a location,” Sullivan said.

With the site selected, the county moved forward with selecting an architect.

The commission approved a contract with JM&H Architecture in November to begin the design process on a new Pike County Jail. The county will pay the firm $1.242 million to the architects to design the new facility.

The county also completed the Dunbar purchase from the Troy Housing Authority in November at a price of $1.6 million.

The costs are both paid out of a fund set aside specifically for costs related to the construction of the facility with revenue generated by a temporary sales tax set by the commission in 2017. As of the end of September, the county had already collected just over $8 million, well exceeding the initial estimate that the tax would generate $2.5 million in annual revenue.

“Now we’re in the process of figuring out what everybody’s needs are in that system that we’re going to have there,” Sullivan said. “We’re certainly going to try to figure out the best thing for the future of the citizens and Pike County. I think (the process) will move pretty fast now, or a lot faster than it has been.”

The design phase is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

In addition to the jail, the county repaved local roads for the first time in decades.

And now with the Rebuild Alabama Act passing in the legislature, the county concocted a plan that will resurface 59 miles of road in 2020.

“We tried to tackle the very worst roads in the county with the 24-month plan,” Sullivan said. “Now with this Rebuild Alabama act, we are planning to resurface about 115 miles of road in the next 15 years.

The plan is to borrow money to repave 59 miles of road in 2020, with the borrowed funds to be repaid through revenue from the increased gas taxes statewide, as well as repaving more roads each year with gas tax revenue that cannot be used for repaying debts.

The county also took part in some major economic development opportunities in 2019.

“Rex Lumber is up and running and we closed the road where Lockheed Martin is moving forward with expansion,” Sullivan said. “And UPI expects to be up and running by June, so we’ve had some great economic development out in the county. And the county is also involved in some of the projects in Troy. The city and county have been working in conjunction and that’s one fo the reasons we’re having all of the success we’re having.

“I think when we sit back and look at it we think ‘We sure did get a lot done,’” Sullivan said. “But we’ve still got a lot more to do.”