During the 2023 regular legislative session, Gov. Kay Ivey and some members of the Alabama Legislature urged discretion on state finances when determining what would be appropriate for the budget surpluses from fiscal year 2022.
However, the escalating costs of projects like the West Alabama Corridor, the two mega-prisons and an executive branch willing to accept those costs suggest a contradiction to that approach.
During an interview with Mobile radio's FM Talk 106.5, State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) acknowledged some of the problems were beyond the executive branch's control given the escalating costs of construction. However, the Morgan County Republican lawmaker questioned if the construction managers were not taking advantage of the State of Alabama.
"Some of that is beyond their control," he said. "I do have a lot of questions about the prisons and the contractors that were hired to give us the cost estimate early on and then the explosion of costs. I fear there has not been good management. And again, I don't directly blame the executive for that. I think a lot of it is beyond that at the contractor level, where they know they've got the state on the hook, and they're using their position to make a very, very extensive and probably excess profit."
Orr argued the construction manager in the prisons' case ought to have to be held accountable to the extent that could have been negligence.
"We've all seen the explosion in costs of construction in the last three or four years — going back COVID versus pre-COVID years, and then post-COVID," Orr added. "Again, I lay a lot of the responsibility on the construction manager. I won't mention the firm's name, but I seriously question the pricing that they gave us, the estimates that they gave us and how they've been handling and managing this project and had told the executive branch leadership the same. I think they ought to be held accountable or at least reviewed and discerned there was some negligence there that ought to be held financially accountable."
Montgomery-based Caddell Construction was hired in 2022 to build the Elmore County mega-prison facility.
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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