Chambers County’s legislative delegation met with members of the Chambers County Commission last week to discuss a number of pressing issues in the county, including needs for the county jail and the consolidation of water services. The breakfast meeting took place on Monday morning at the Chambers County Highway Department office and in attendance were Sen. Gerald Dial, Rep. Richard Laird, Rep. DuWayne Bridges, Commission Chairman Debbie Wood, commissioners Joe Blanks, Charlie Williams, Henry Osborne and David Eastridge, County Administrator John Dendy and County Attorney Skip McCoy.
The Chambers County Jail went through a major expansion in 1990 and has since seen improvements in the form of a $375,000 camera monitoring system, but there are several problems that need to be addressed now, including a new roof and pluming system.
Wood brought a piece of pipe fitting from the jail to show to the legislators. She used the heavily corroded pipe to illustrate the effects condensation has had on the underground fixtures. “”Everything was buried or hidden so that the inmates wouldn’t tear it up,” Wood explained.
“We have a huge problem with the jail,” she said. “We will probably need $500,000 to correct everything.”
It was also explained that many of the jail’s smoke detectors are corroded, there is a lack of hot water, water discoloration is common and a jail that was built to house approximately 130 inmates averages around 150 due to the facility having to take on state inmates.
The most pressing issue, however, explained by the commissioners was to replace the roof, which could cost as much as $150,000.
In discussing water services, Rep. Laird mentioned that it would be good for both Chambers and Randolph Counties to have consolidated water systems. McCoy said that the process could be underway already in Chambers County.
The East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District has already acquired lines in the county formerly operated by the Beulah Water System. Studies are underway to determine if East Alabama should operate the entire Beulah system; this would subsequently place them in Lee County.
There may also be other opportunities for Chambers to partner with adjoining counties for water services. Dendy said that the water authority in Jacksons Gap is extending lines near the Chambers County line. Once operational, it would be possible to connect the lines and run them through Ridge Grove into LaFayette.
It may be more feasible to get water from Randolph County on the northern end of the county, rather that have East Alabama extend lines that far. In such a situation, East Alabama could purchase water from another supplier and bill residents in Chambers County.
“This is not the first time we’ve had this kind of conversation,” Sen. Dial said. “Having a unified water system is important for economic development.”
Before the meeting ended, McCoy asked the legislators to consider local legislation on levelling Valley’s recent sales tax increase. The proposal would increase the sales tax from nine percent to ten percent countywide. Chambers County voters would have to approve this move in a special election. McCoy didn’t ask for immediate action, but simply for the legislators to consider it.
Rep. Bridges noted that Valley’s 10 percent tax is one of five cities statewide with that high of a sales tax.