With cost potentially doubling when it is all said and done with the completion of the Elmore County mega-prison, some lawmakers are considering a different path forward on the Elmore County-sibling facility to be built in Escambia County.

Last year, the Ivey administration revealed the initial estimate of $623 billion was far too low and anticipated a cost of nearly $1 billion. Months later, the Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority announced the cost would exceed $1 billion, almost eclipsing the amount allotted for two facilities during a special session in 2021.

If, as expected, the cost of the Escambia County facility requires more than the $785 million statutory bonding capacity of the Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority, the Ivey administration or the next administration will be forced to seek additional funding from the Alabama Legislature.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) said the legislature should reconsider the construction management delivery method used for the Elmore County facility given the rampant cost escalation it allowed for over the past three years.

"[O]ne, you know, I'm a contractor by trade, and I understand this, you know, this kind of construction manager and this design-build process. And it works in some instances, I am not convinced, having seen it, you know, tried to apply in government, that it works in government. And I just think we need to take a step back from that and really analyze it before we get into any more of these big projects like this. Unfortunately, whether it's DOT, the Department of Transportation or the Department of Corrections, we have taken some of the biggest projects ever undertaken by the state and have decided to use a completely new delivery method, which is questionable, I think. But I do think we need to go back to design-bid-build and look, Jeff, if it takes longer, so be it. But we cannot continue to live with this consistent cost uncertainty that is varying up to 100% more than what the estimates are. That's an unacceptable way to govern."

The Baldwin County Republican said he did not anticipate any objections to an extended timeline from the U.S. Department of Justice, which is suing the State of Alabama for potential Eighth Amendment violations.

"To your question about the feds and whether or not they'll be patient with us, I continue to believe that as long as we're making meaningful progress on these projects, which we are, maybe not fast, but meaningful projects, that they want us to solve this problem. They do not want to take it over. And as long as we are diligently working and funding these projects, I think they'll let us do it on our own."

Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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