‘It’s literally in my backyard’: Neighbors raise concerns over new St. Clair County Detention Center

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PELL CITY, Ala. (WIAT) — Construction is underway and on schedule at the St. Clair County Detention Center in Pell City, according to St. Clair County Sheriff Billy Murray.

The new jail is replacing an older facility located directly behind the county courthouse. Though the new jail will be in the same general area, it’s new location will be across the street from the courthouse rather than behind it, and it’s also going to be much larger than the original one, according to St. Clair County Attorney James Hill.

Hill explained the county commission spent a lot of time deciding on a location and size. He said putting the jail in Pell City, in an area that already housed a jail, made the most sense.

The costs to cover the construction are estimated at $25 million dollars. County residents won’t have to pay any additional taxes, according to Hill, but instead will pay in a different way.

“Instead of adding any new tax measures we just expanded an existing court cost measure,” said Hill.

That means criminal court charges will pay for the jail. So if you get a speeding ticket, for example, the fees you pay would go toward the construction costs.

Sheriff Murray told CBS 42 it’s part of his job as county sheriff to run a jail. The county has operated two jails, in the northern and southern districts, for decades. Both the jail in Pell City and in Ashville have required significant repairs over the years.

Currently, there is an overflow of inmates in the county who have to be housed at other facilities.

“As the county grows, the jail needs to grow, Sheriff Murray explained. “So its going to be safe, and it’s going to be secure.”

Neighbors who live near the new jail site, however, have some concerns.

“It’s literally in our backyard, so now were having to build a fence, you know a privacy fence, so we have a little bit more separation,” said Pell City resident Laura Thurman.

Thurman told CBS 42 the old jail was down the block from her house, but construction on the new jail is directly behind her home.

Neighbors are also concerned about the financial implications, even if their tax dollars aren’t funding the construction. Jordan Wilson was in the process of moving out of his home when we drove through the neighborhood.

“I don’t see how a big old jail sitting behind a historic district in Pell City is going to help the value of the property,” said Wilson as he prepared boxes. He explained that’s part of the reason while he’s leaving.

The new jail site is part of a historic district in Pell City, and Wilson said he is also worried about maintaining the history of the neighborhood.

“What I’m concerned about is what if eventually all of this is gone,” Wilson told CBS 42.

Sheriff Murray said construction on the building will start once the initial groundwork is complete, likely at the end of summer. It’s expected to take around 16-18 months.

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