By Kim West
Stanley Menefee gave the first state of the county address to a packed crowd in the Sandridge Student Center on the campus of Athens State University Tuesday.
Audience members paid $15 per ticket for the luncheon benefit with proceeds going to the ASU Foundation.
Menefee, chairman of the Limestone County Commission, gave a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation highlighting the county’s growth. Limestone County has 82,782 residents compared to 46,000 in 1980.
He called Limestone “the fifth-fastest growing county in the state,” and said it currently has 253 employees and a general fund of $10.9 million.
Menefee said the biggest county debt is $10.3 million owed on the bond used to pay for the Clinton Street annex and Limestone County Jail.
“We are scheduled to pay this off by (Nov. 1, 2025), and we took six years off after re-financing the loan,” he said.
The new jail, with a 288-bed capacity, was completed in 2005 under a federal court order after the former jail, built for 80 inmates in 1961, was deemed inadequate by a federal judge.
Ongoing projects in the county include the courthouse renovation and jail expansion. The courthouse plans were developed with the help of the courthouse judges and are available for viewing in the lobby of the Washington Street annex.
“It would cost $2 to $3 million to renovate the courthouse, and $12 to $15 million for a new judicial building,” Menefee said. “I myself prefer to stay in the courthouse, which was built in 1918. I think the (original) architects did a great job and were thinking way ahead.”
The commission approved the purchase of the Wheeler Street property, owned by Henry Bagsby, at its Nov. 19 meeting to expand the jail on the west side extending vertically to the south.
The project architect is Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, and bids will not be let until after the purchase has been finalized. The expansion will include 24 to 26 single-bed cells and is expected to cost at least $2 million.
Menefee said this addition was encouraged by the jail’s liability insurer and was not part of the original construction due to budget constraints.
He said the county address was inspired by a similar event hosted by Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks, who hosts an annual state of the city address.
“It’s an honor to be in this position today,” said Menefee, who was elected as chairman in 2010 and previously served 14 years on the commission.