Tri-County Outreach, a drug rehabilitation program, purchased the Ayers Building on West 10th Street on Sept. 27 for $1.1 million. Calhoun County Commissioner Rudy Abbott said Tri-County will move its drug rehabilitation program to the center. The new program will not be under the supervision of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, the previous tenants of the facility.
“We sold the building because it was in the best interest of the county,” said Abbott.
He said Tri-County Outreach officials plan to house patients in the drug rehabilitation program at the building, which had been the county’s initial intent for the Sheriff’s Office inmate rehabilitation program.
The county purchased the Ayers Building, formerly the office of The Anniston Star, from Consolidated Publishing in 2006 for $300,000. Abbott said that while the building was designed to house inmates going through the substance abuse program, the Sheriff’s Office kept inmates at the county jail nearby and brought them to the facility on 10th Street to use the building’s classrooms.
But according to Chief Deputy Matthew Wade of the Sheriff’s Office, housing inmates at the facility was never an option for the Sheriff’s Office. Wade said the budget for the substance abuse program couldn’t support enough deputies to monitor the building 24 hours per day. When the commission redesigned the building, Wade said, the Sheriff’s Office was not consulted about improving safety requirements at the facility.
“If someone escaped, it wouldn’t be Mr. Abbott lost someone from his program,” Wade said. “It would be an inmate escaped from the sheriff’s facility.”
Kathy Evans, the owner of Tri-County Outreach, declined a request for an interview this week. Evans said she hopes to have a grand opening at the facility in November or December.
Abbott said Tri-County currently operates out of several facilities, but plans to use the Ayers Building as its only location. In purchasing the building, Abbott said, Evans agreed to continue to let other tenants operate at the facility, including a twice-monthly free dental clinic hosted by Calhoun County Interfaith Ministries. Abbott said the Sheriff’s Office can also continue to use the building’s classrooms for its inmate substance abuse program.
Wade said he was blindsided by the sale, and was unaware the commission had sold the building until last week when he was asked to leave his office by Tri-County Outreach officials.
“I’m not upset they sold the building,” Wade said. “It’s their building, they can do what they want with it. I’m upset with the way they handled it.”
Wade said he felt the substance abuse program has been successful, and said that since starting in February 2007, more than 425 inmates have completed the 20-week program.
“Can I say all of them were fixed? No, that wouldn’t be true,” Wade said. “But I think we made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
Abbott said the county is still funding the Sheriff Office’s substance abuse program, but it will receive less money this year.
Funding typically was around $200,000, with $130,000 for salaries. Abbott said that aside from employee pay, the main expenses of the program are insurance and maintenance of the building.
This year’s budget only allocates salaries to the program.
“We’ll make it work,” Wade said. “Until they tell me they can’t give me money for salary, I’ll keep working on it.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.