Phenix City backs out of jail expansion project

Source: Taylor Barnhill
Source: Taylor Barnhill

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email | Twitter

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - A multi-million dollar project that has been in the works for close to a year in east Alabama, could now come to an end.

The Russell County Jail expansion project has started, but it may come to a screeching halt.

In this morning's Russell County Commission meeting it was announced that Phenix City is re-thinking its agreement for the county's multi-million dollar jail expansion.

Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell told News Leader Nine, "I'm disappointed in that decision because it will complicate our plans to build an addition onto the jail."

Commissioners and Phenix City council members entered into the agreement to fund the work and already approved the plan for a $3.2 million expansion.

Russell County Commission Chair Peggy Martin said, "It serves both city and county, the tax payers are paying for it, and they expect us to work together. In these economic times we need to."

But now city council wants to back out, saying a letter listing their reasons will soon follow. Mayor Sonny Coulter told News Leader Nine, "I do not wish to make an official comment until I can discuss it with Phenix City council members."

"I'm still hoping that at some point in time the city and the county can get together and the city will pay their fair share," said Sheriff Boswell.

And that's what the next plan is. Commissioners voted to hold a joint work session with council members so the issue can get resolved. Martin stated, "I hope it will bring it to fruition that we will continue with the project, with the city's input of 50 percent and our 50 percent."

If an agreement is not reached, Sheriff Boswell says they are out of funding options, "I don't know of any. We've explored grants and that's gone by the wayside."

Boswell added, the wheels have already started moving on the expansion plan, "The architect has finished the schematic drawings for the early plans. It will be frozen, I hope, for a few days or weeks before we get it back in gear."

Meaning the county is already about $40,000 in. But Wednesday, commissioners voted to freeze the plan at this point, and wait to see if they can resolve the issues with the city. If all goes well, the project can start back up within a few months, if not, that means no new jail for Russell County.

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