In October 2021, Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation appointing $785 million to build two new 4,000-bed men's mega prisons in Elmore and Escambia Counties.
Ivey has said the Elmore facility should be functional by the summer of 2026. However, some Alabama lawmakers are questioning that prognostication.
The Elmore site is located behind the Staton, Draper, and Elmore correctional facilities and currently consists of a bulldozed plot of land behind a fence. Many days, construction seems to be non-existent.
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) has criticized the sluggish pace at which the construction is progressing, saying, "It is taking too long, and let's get on with it."
According to State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), the construction is moving along, and the Montgomery-based construction crew is near ready to begin building above ground.
"They pretty much have all the rough grading complete, which is obviously a huge step, and they are currently working on stormwater, and those pipes are being put in the ground now," Chambliss told 1819 News.
Chambliss, who sits on the Joint Legislative Prison Committee, did not give much credence to complaints on the alleged lack of progress on the prison, citing standard red tape in any construction process.
"That actually is a question I've heard asked for my entire career, being in the engineering profession," he continued. "Even small projects like I do, I don't do anything like that size. What you have a lot of times is, 'OK, here's what we're going to do,' and everyone is excited about it, and they think within the next 30 days, something is going to start happening. But what you have is surveying that has to be done. You have engineering that has to be done. You have permitting that has to be done. And, even on projects as small as I do, you're looking a year a lot of time, from the start to something actually coming out of the ground; that's very, very common on even small projects."
Chambliss said the 2021 legislation actually precipitated the construction, and the progress would have been significantly diminished had it not.
"We wrote the legislation specifically to allow some of that advanced construction to begin," he outlined. "I am well-pleased that we've got the site work completed and are working on stormwater. If we had not made some of those provisions in the law, we would probably still be several months away from the starting of the site work. So, I think we are in good shape. It's just part of the business that people don't understand: the surveying, the engineering, the permitting, that just takes a lot of time. Fortunately, we are past a lot of that, and we've got a good site ready to build on. I am ready to see it start coming out of the ground, too."
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