Anthony McCollum at SPEDA meeting

Pulaski County Jailer Anthony McCollum, standing, speaks at Thursday’s SPEDA board meeting about the detention center's re-entry programs.

Generally speaking, when a jail generates headlines, it’s not necessarily good news. However last Thursday, the Pulaski County Detention Center got some very good news courtesy of SPEDA (Somerset Pulaski Economic Development Authority) with the organization’s board of directors voting to purchase property adjacent to the jail to be utilized as a vocational training facility for inmates nearing release.

SPEDA is buying the 6,000 square foot warehouse, located on Thannoli Drive, from Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital for $40,000. 

SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said the organization has been working with Jailer Anthony McCollum and his staff as well as Somerset Community College’s Alesa Johnson on re-entry programs for about two years. He noted that the programs aren’t about luxury but rather preparing for a better life.

“That’s where Anthony’s heart is,” Girdler said. “He is wanting to help these folks — their friends, their families — with a better life.”

PCDC already offers 12-step classes and soft skills training inside the jail. The new warehouse will be used for technical training in a secure environment. McCollum said the detention center has already implemented a welding class and is looking to add other offerings as well. He’s hopeful the facility can be a model for the rest of Kentucky. 

“I think this is just a win-win for everybody,” McCollum said. “I think it’s going to be a leading example throughout the state.” 

PCDC Sergeant Rodney Dick added that re-entry programs are vital to reducing recidivism rates. Jailer McCollum added that staff has been designated to follow up with former inmates for added support as they rejoin the community. 

“Used to, you’d turn them out with a bunch of phone numbers that could go in the trash can before they were even out the door,” the jailer said. “[This employee] acts as a case manager…It’s kind of a broad stream effect, and this training facility will be a part of that.” 

Girdler praised the hospital and its CEO, Robert Parker, whom he said “has been incredible to work with,” for their generosity. Judge-Executive Steve Kelley noted that, given current market values, the transaction could very much be seen as a donation to the community.

“It says volumes about their organization and their commitment to this community,” SPEDA chair Brook Ping added. “It’s a wonderful facility.” 

Once the purchase is complete, SPEDA will be working with McCollum and county officials on a lease agreement with PCDC.

“Once they have made us whole, we will then donate that property [to the jail],” Girdler said. “I think this is a wonderful example of SPEDA leading the way. There’s not another economic development authority in the commonwealth of Kentucky doing this type of work.”

Upon the SPEDA board’s approval, on a motion from Judge Kelley, Girdler said he hoped the purchase could be completed in about 30 days. 

“We are proud to be able to facilitate this purchase for SPEDA and appreciate their efforts to undertake a facility of this kind that will help improve the lives of so many in our community,” Parker stated when contacted about the purchase on Friday.

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