North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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October 5, 2011

Gardendale residents speak out about new jail; three against, one for

GARDENDALE — Four Gardendale citizens had their say Monday about the city putting steps into motion to relocate the police department and jail.

Will Smith, Allen Hutchins and Debbie Goodwin all oppose the city’s plan to move police and court facilities to the former Food World store at 1309 Decatur Hwy.; Karen Dunn supports the idea. They stood to voice their opinions at the Gardendale City Council meeting.

“I would feel safer with police cars around,” said Dunn, who lives two miles from the former grocery store.

Goodwin, who lives on Payne Road right next to the former store, said she objects because she would not feel safe with a jail so close to her neighborhood. She said if people escaped from the jail, her neighborhood would be the first place they would go.

“I just do not approve,” she said.

Goodwin, Hutchins and Smith have been circulating a petition in the neighborhoods behind and beside Gardendale Plaza, where the old grocery store is located.

“I’m against this. It’s in my back yard,” said Smith, who lives on Cliff Road. “My only concern is that people will escape that jail. ... Why can’t the jail be put somewhere else?” He asked why the jail can’t be included in the new city center to be built on Mt. Olive Road. The city center will include city administrative offices and retail spaces for lease or for sale.

Gardendale Mayor Othell Phillips said the city wants to use as little of that space as possible for municipal purposes in order to develop it for business. The site, formerly planned for the failed Caufield Square development, is 22 acres.

Hutchins said many of the residents he talked to are “terrified” at the thought of a jail being moved to their neighborhood.

Phillips responded that the jail has been in its current location for 50 years and is near a subdivision and a day care.

“We’ve never had any problems,” he said.

He added that the grocery store has been vacant for two years, and that the city was “killing two birds with one stone” by filling an empty building and finding a new home for the police department.

The city council has sold the current city hall building at 970 Main Street and must vacate the facility by October 2012. CVS Pharmacy will relocate from 1303 Decatur Hwy. to the current city hall location.

On Sept. 9, the council voted to pay $550,000 for the former grocery store; to have an asbestos survey done at the building; and to contract with architects to redesign the facility.

In other business on Monday, the council:

• approved a bid, and authorized a contract with, Hurst Towing & Recovery Inc. for towing, impounding and storing vehicles

• promoted Regina Graham to administrative assistant III in the inspection services department and crated a building inspection officer position in the inspection services department

• declared certain police vehicles and weapons as surplus

• renewed an agreement with Jerry Burchfield to provide indigent defense services in the Gardendale Municipal Court

The next regular city council meeting is Oct. 17, 6 p.m., at Gardendale City Hall.

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