By Mary Sell, Alabama Daily News
The Alabama Department of Corrections this week said the construction of a new mega prison on land already owned by the state in Elmore County was not feasible.
Last week, Gov. Kay Ivey announced one of three new planned prisons will be near Tallassee, despite lawmakers' and local leaders' written request last month that vacant land on a current three-prison complex be considered.
Alabama Daily News asked ADOC about the request and ultimate site selection.
“As you know, our current correctional facilities – built decades ago – are dilapidated and structurally failing and were not designed to house or rehabilitate the inmate population currently incarcerated in Alabama,” ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose said. "Our correctional system is at a tipping point, and we must act now.
“Pursuant to the Request for Expressions of Interest, Request for Qualifications, and Request for Proposals, proposed site selection is the responsibility of the Developer Team. Critical due diligence was conducted to thoroughly evaluate and vet each proposed site option, including the possibility of selling state lands through the State Land Sales and Leasing Act. It was determined that option was not feasible due to a number of obstacles – the competitive bid requirements of the SLSLA and the potential of creating competitive advantages or disadvantages among the competing developer teams causing significant protest and litigation risk; a significant delay in schedule; and increased costs to the project overall.”
Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, was one of four lawmakers to sign the letter to Ivey advocating for the Elmore site. He said he got a phone call from Ivey prior to her announcement Friday.
“I appreciated the heads up,” Chambliss said about the Tallassee decision.
“I really don’t understand why that’s a better direction for the state, yet,” Chambliss said on Tuesday. “Maybe ultimately I will, but right now I still think state-owned property with existing infrastructure is kind of hard to beat.”
The three prisons in Elmore are the largest customer of the local water authority. If they close, as most existing prisons are expected to, when the three mega prisons open, that will mean a significant rate increase for remaining customers.
“We in Elmore County are shifting our focus to what we can do, what are our options available, to replace those water and sewer flows, specifically so that our residents don’t have huge increases in their monthly bills,” Chambliss said.
Meanwhile, Chambliss said leaders are looking for possible new, future uses for what is now Draper, Staton and Elmore Correctional Facility.
“It’s hard to sell used prisons,” said Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka.