GENEVA, Ala. — Voters in Geneva County approved a one-cent sales tax increase in early November that would be used to construct a new county jail.
The current county jail is in bad condition and Geneva County Commission Chairman Fred Hamic and Sheriff Greg Ward said not much can be done to renovate it, according to DothanFirst.com. Hamic said the facility has been housing 65 to 70 inmates in a jail built to house 43. The county has had to use temporary buildings to support an overflow of prisoners.
The county will use revenues generated by the new sales tax to pay off bonds that will finance the new jail. This will be done versus waiting to collect sales tax for a number of years and then beginning the construction. All money raised by the tax has to be spent on the jail. Any funds not spent on the jail will go to the county road and bridge department.
The tax increase will bring in about $1 million per year. It will bring total sales taxes up to 6 percent in the county, and between 8 and 9 percent in most towns. In the city of Geneva, the increase will bring the rate up to 9.5 percent.
Ward and other county leaders campaigned for the increase, according to DothanEagle.com, because they were worried that if the county didn’t build a new jail, a federal judge could rule the current facility unfit and force Geneva County to increase property taxes to fund a much more expensive jail than the one the county is considering building.
The county commission is in the process of creating a committee to consider sites for the new jail. The commission will also vote on legal mechanisms that will allow the sales tax to begin being collected next year. Two leading contenders for the site are the current jail site and the Geneva County Farm Center. Each has its drawbacks, as the current site is prone to flooding, and building at the farm center would require the county to install about a mile and a half of sewer line, reported DothanEagle.com.
The county will likely begin collecting the new tax at the start of the year, and construction on the jail could begin as early as summer 2015, reported DothanEagle.com. According to plans drawn up a few years ago, it would cost about $7.5 million to build a new jail. Ward told DothanEagle.com that he would like a 130-bed facility to accommodate future population growth.