/Citizens voice concerns over pending prison construction at City Council meeting
City Council in gold letters on purple backgroundGraphic by Bell Jackson

Citizens voice concerns over pending prison construction at City Council meeting

The Montevallo City Council met Monday, Oct. 12, for their regularly scheduled, biweekly meeting. The council met to discuss the set agenda topic as well as field the concerns of citizens who chose to attend the meeting. The council met in person both in person and via Zoom, with the meeting livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page. 

Two citizens came forward to address the City Council about Governor Kay Ivey’s plan to construct a privately-run prison in nearby Brierfield.  

This prison is part of the Ivey administration’s plan to construct three new prisons to replace some of the state’s aging prison infrastructure and will be designed to hold 3,100 inmates.  

However, there has been very little information made public about these plans. As one citizen brought up, there has been limited information made available on what impact this prison would have on city and county utilities, such as water and sewage.  

Citizens also expressed concern over the private management of this prison. The Alabama prison system already faces an overcrowding issue. In a privately-run prison, there is a monetary incentive to having a high capacity. Citizens are concerned that this will cause state prisons to continue to overlook the overcrowding issue. 

One citizen, Chris Nelson, who spoke on the subject urged Montevallo city officials to ask the Alabama Department of Corrections to postpone an informational meeting they are hosting until information about this prison project is more widely publicized. He also urged the council contact those involved with the project to request more information. 

Another citizen, Greg Reese, who has worked for the Department of Corrections on a personnel survey, warned that he doesn’t “think they’re going to be able to hire enough people to staff the prison.”  

He pointed out that, currently, the Alabama prison system is operating with 50% of the personnel recommended for operation. It is unclear how the Department of Corrections plans to hire enough people to staff a new prison when there is already a staffing shortage within the current prison system. 

The council also addressed a recommendation to amend Chapter 4 of the Montevallo Municipal Code. Chapter 4 addresses animal health and welfare within the city.  

As it is currently, the ordinance only penalizes those who abandon an animal within a house. The amended version of this ordinance aims to expand this definition of abandonment to include those who neglect their pets by leaving them outside with little to no access to food, water, and shelter. The amended version of this ordinance will have to be reviewed by the city’s attorney before it can be put into effect. 

There was also a presentation of the new brewery that is being constructed in town, Interstellar Brewery. Interstellar has been in operation for three years out of Alabaster and distributes across the state, but lacks a proper storefront location.  

The construction of said brewery in the former Victory Autos and Collision Center on Main Street has been the topic of debate for the past several city council meetings, with many citizens, as well as Mayor-elect Rusty Nix, expressing concern over the financial burden financing such a project may place on the city.  

However, the owner of Interstellar Brewery, Shane Kelly, assured the city council that he is aiming for the actual construction project to cost as little as possible; saying he is “open to doing whatever it takes to make this economical for the city,” as well as assuring that there may be ways to “cut some money off the project.”  

Kelly also assured that the brewery will benefit the city. He pointed out that Interstellar distributes statewide, and that Montevallo’s name would be on the packaging; providing publicity for the city. Kelly also outlined his plans to have several community-based events throughout the year. 

The next city council meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page. Citizens may also attend the meeting in person at City Hall. However, there will be limited seating and social distancing protocols put in place. 

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Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.