Firm selection for jail is substantial step

Marion County officials are all in on a new Marion County Jail.
With its selection of two firms for construction management and architectural design on Monday, June 14, Marion County commissioners are making good on campaign promises they all made during the 2018 elections to work toward a new jail facility.
WAR Construction of Tuscaloosa and Jim Berry & Associates of Fayette both were key players in the construction of the new Fayette County Jail facility and will be helping with the local project. As the most local choices among the firms jockeying for the job, this means that local contractors will likely be recruited for certain stages of the construction and that more of the dollars spent on this capital project will stay in our area.
The Fayette County Jail costs roughly $6 million and is fitted for 100 inmates. Marion County Sheriff Kevin Williams says he is looking to get about twice as many beds as Fayette and he will also need offices. In May, Williams said the jail experienced an all-time high one-day population of 201 inmates.
The current jail, which was built in 1979, is designed to hold 86 individuals. Williams says this is leading to a large majority of his inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor as well as many unserved arrest warrants as he is trying to keep the jail population under control.
Though no concrete dollar amount has been discussed yet, we can expect to see a new Marion County Jail with a higher price tag than Fayette County’s--especially as the price for building supplies continues to skyrocket nationwide in the post-pandemic economy.
Building and paying for a new jail likely won’t win these commissioners any more political clout for the next county elections in 2022, but it is the right thing to do. Not only is it a humane move to solve the jail’s overcrowding crisis, but a new jail will move Marion County out of the danger zone of potential liability and out of the reach of federal intervention, which could result in exponentially larger costs if a judge ordered the county to build a facility according to federal specifications. Such a ruling could even have a tax hike attached to it.

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