Who will pay for the Russell County Jail expansion?

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email | Twitter

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - To pay or not to pay, that's the question Phenix City Council has to face when it comes to the Russell County Jail expansion.

Council members and county commissioners held a joint work session Thursday to discuss that very topic and as News Leader Nine found out, the answer hasn't changed.

Nearly 20 years ago Russell County and Phenix City entered into a contract for a 68 bed addition to the Russell County Jail. Now that a new $3 million expansion is in the works, the question arises, is the city obligated to pay?

Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter explained, "Over the past 20 years the city has gone far beyond what it really had to do in support of the jail."

But now the city doesn't feel the need to pay for beds their inmates won't even need.

"I want to work with the county commission whenever we can but at the same time my job as the mayor of this city is to look after the city's finances and not to over extend our monies and our obligations... And that's what I'm going to do," Mayor Coulter told News Leader Nine.

The county and city officials held a joint work session to discuss the issue.

Russell County Commission Chair Peggy Martin said, "Overall it went well because we each had input vocally and had facts presented to us and the sheriff did a tremendous job of sharing the need for the expansion."

But in the end, no real solution was met.

"We gave it a shot. Everybody will have a week or two to think about what came out of the meeting today and then we'll have to take it to the next step one way or another," said Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell.

A financial advisor for the project said the county can pay for this project on its own, but it would mean extending the bond payments out another 30 years.

Until a decision is made, Sheriff Boswell tells us the project has been put on hold.

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