Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Colbert Jail in This Lifetime?

Colbert commission reactivates jail committee - January 6, 2017 

Let's hope THIS TIME, the commissioners will not get side-tracked!

Just a trip down memory lane and reading past news articles from many years, it's no secret this is a worn out debate on financing. It's time to roll up your sleeves, prioritize budgets and get this done.

We hope every local government entity will examine their own spending and cut the excess.

Time for a little common sense budgeting and cut the fluff!!!

Just a FEW of the previous articles - (just back to 2003) - many of our children and grandchildren are growing up reading about the need of a jail. Wonder if their children and grandchildren will still be laughing at this situation?

Colbert closer to new jail - Feb 4, 2003

TUSCUMBIA - An intergovernmental committee studying the construction of a metropolitan jail for Colbert County will recommend its choice of architect to commissioners in two weeks.

County Commissioner Troy Woodis, who is chairman of the committee, said the recommendation will be presented to the commission during its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 5. The commission is required by law to oversee the county jail.

Preliminary cost estimates of the jail range from $8 million-$12 million. Cherokee Mayor Chuck Lansdell, a member of the committee, said the true cost won’t be known until contractors submit construction bids.

The committee also expects to find out whether Helen Keller Hospital will sell 8.5 acres on Avalon Avenue to build the 200-plus bed facility. Woodis said the hospital’s board is expected to make a decision soon. The land is on the north side of Avalon in Sheffield.

The committee has not made a recommendation on paying for jail construction and operation. The most frequently discussed method is adding a fee to all court cases filed in municipal courts and circuit court in Colbert. A $35 fee has been mentioned.

Colbert leaders look into jail cost - June 13, 2007

TUSCUMBIA -- If work began today, it would take roughly three years to complete a new Colbert County jail, a contractor told county commissioners Tuesday.

"Right now, we're just looking," Commission Chairman Rex Burleson said. "We're not proposing anything at this point."

Moore and his associates will provide the commission with two cost estimates.

One will be for a new jail built on the site of the existing jail and another for a new facility on property adjoining the county road department on Alabama 157.

Burleson said the commission will discuss funding options once they see the cost estimates.

Commissioner Troy Woodis said the commission is considering a facility that would house 175 to 225 prisoners.

The existing jail was designed to house 62 prisoners, but Sheriff Ronnie May said it consistently holds 100 or more.

May earlier told commissioners that about 24 inmates were awaiting transfer to state prison facilities.

Colbert County Jail in need of replacing - May 12, 2009

The county needs a new jail, but the commission must address one major issue - how to pay for it.

"That jail thing has been lying there dormant for a number of years," Commissioner Roger Creekmore said. "We realize there's some issues with the existing jail. We want to go ahead and be proactive now about addressing those issues."

Creekmore wants the commission to explore how much a new jail will cost and options for funding it.

Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May said many of the jail's problems are because of its age.

The jail was designed to hold 62 inmates, but as of May 5, it contained 88 prisoners. May said as many as 125 inmates have been in the jail at one time.

He said the way the jail was built makes it difficult for jailers to monitor prisoners. There is a video surveillance system, but some of the cameras are inoperable and the system does not have a recording function.

"Ideally, we want cameras that monitor physical activity and record it," May said.

The last jail renovation project was in 1986 when the interior was painted and new flooring installed. Broken welds on metal bed frames were repaired. May said the dispatch area has also been renovated.

Security officer Heath Halcomb has been working at the jail for 11 years.

"There are sinks that don't work and toilets that don't flush," he said during a tour of the facility. "There are recurring problems with the plumbing."

Assistant Chief Deputy Mike Aday said freezers and refrigerators are in two or three separate locations in the building and food items often have to be brought from an upstairs storage room downstairs to the kitchen.

A small downstairs pantry is stocked with cans of hominy, peas, green beans, pork and beans, and containers of grits and oatmeal.

On a recent Wednesday, the cook and two inmate workers were preparing food trays with hamburgers, french fries and two cookies.

"It's their favorite meal," Aday said.

The lack of sufficient pantry space requires jail personnel to order food items on a weekly basis, he said.

The jail lacks a place for inmates to exercise outside. During Sunday visitation, friends or family stand outside the cells to speak to inmates through an opening in the cell's metal doors.

In the basement, among a maze of pipes and conduit, sit two industrial washing machines. Across from the washers are stacks of mattresses.

Aday was unsure what some of the electronic junction boxes and wiring attached to a wall were for and whether they were still being used.

He said the recommendation of the last grand jury that toured the facility was to build a new jail.

May said each time the fire marshal, insurance inspector, state jail inspector or health department inspector comes through, they leave a list of items that need to be corrected. The kitchen, however, received a 93 rating from the health department on the inspector's last visit.

"The fire marshal seems to be the one who has been more extensive in his reports about what needs to be repaired," May said.

James Brumley, the county's general fund accountant, said about $200,000 has been spent on jail maintenance in the past five years. The money spent on maintenance is far less than bond payments on a new facility.

Creekmore, one of the commission's two newest members, wants to start looking at what a new jail would cost."We could sit here all day and guess what a new jail is going to cost, how many beds do we need, how are we going to finance it, where are we going to locate it," he said. "We need someone in here with experience in a consulting capacity to help answer those questions."

May said he has asked for a new jail, which would include a sheriff's office, in each of his budget requests dating back to 1999.

The commission had an architect work on a jail design several years ago, Commissioner Troy Woodis said. Woodis was a member of a jail committee that May said met for a time, but interest apparently waned and the meetings became less frequent."The commission received a $10 million cost estimate four years ago, the sheriff said. A new jail would likely cost much more.

May said renovating the jail is not an option."You cannot increase the capacity," he said. "The only way would be to strip out the whole interior and put cells on the second and third floors."

The most popular idea has been a consolidated jail that would house county inmates as well as inmates from Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, Tuscumbia, Cherokee, Leighton and Littleville."The capacity would be increased to hold around 250-275 inmates," the sheriff said.

Commissioner Rex Burleson likes the idea of a judicial building that would include what May was describing. With the current shape of the economy, however, Burleson said the county doesn't have the money to build it.

"I'm not saying we don't need it," he said.Burleson said the expense doesn't end after the jail is built."It's an ongoing thing and you have to look at the expenses after you build it," Burleson said.

"I don't know what the funding mechanism is going to be," Woodis said. "That's what we come back to every time. If you do not have the money to pay back the loan or the bond or however you finance it, you can't do it."

The county does not want a federal judge to order the construction of a new jail."Where the community and the (residents) are going to lose is if the federal courts get involved," May said. "Historically, they have a lot of requirements in the facilities they order done. The cost increases substantially. I've talked to sheriffs all over the state that have been ordered federally to have new facility done. Each one said the cost has been anywhere from $4 million to $6 million more."

Federal court action led to the construction of a new jail in Lauderdale County.In 1993, a U.S. District judge ordered the Lauderdale County Commission to levy an additional 2 mill ad valorem tax to fund the construction of a new jail, county administrator Jenoice Bevis said.The jail was completed in December 1995 at a cost of nearly $6 million, Bevis said.The commission removed the tax in October 2003 after the bonds used to fund the construction were paid off."In October 2001, it was reduced because we knew we would not need the whole two mills to finish it out," Bevis said.

Franklin County avoided federal intervention when the county commission agreed to replace the facility, which was the second oldest jail still in operation in the state at the time. The jail cost the county about $11 million and comfortably houses 140 inmates, Sheriff Larry Plott said. Under most federal court orders now, they maintain jurisdiction over it for two years, so essentially they will be running it," Plott said.

Leslie M. Shoals


A reader has questioned the sexual torture charge against Nathan Paul Bougher, accused of the physical and sexual abuse of his one-month old son. We agree; it would be extremely difficult to prove Bougher used a foreign object on the boy. His current story is that he may have harmed him while inserting a suppository. 

This may make little difference in the final outcome of Bougher's sentence. Since early last year, convictions of physical and sexual abuse of a child under the age of six have carried the same sentence as sexual torture in this state. In other words, unless Bougher is lucky enough to make a deal, he will get life with the possibility of parole. Of course, it's unlikely he'll survive in prison long enough to be eligible for parole...


We see that Trip Advisor lists 17 popular escape rooms in Alabama. Escape Room Florence is number 14; let's see if we can't get it ranked higher:

We also see that Rob Carnegie's paid favorite, um, sorry, personal favorite is not even listed...

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