Shoals representative wants halfway house shut down permanently

Shoals representative wants halfway house shut down permanently
(Source: WAFF)

COLBERT COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Alabama House Representative Johnny Mack Morrow is speaking out against a controversial halfway house that could be moved into his district.

The Outreach Reentry Ministry was originally planned for the Four Way Inn motel in Colbert County, but State Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen says the structure does not meet state fire regulations and will be shut down for now.

According to Pilgreen, the operators have not taken the required steps to bring the building into compliance with fire and safety codes.

The decision shutter the facility has met with Morrow's approval, who has recently lobbied Governor Kay Ivey, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Pardons and Parole to do just that.

Morrow asked them to take immediate steps to close the halfway house before someone gets hurt. A representative out of the Shoals, Morrow wants the facility off Hwy. 43 in Tuscumbia shut down permanently.

"As a State Representative I don't have any authority to go padlock it, if I did I would," Morrow said.

He isn't alone in his frustrations with the facility housing out-of-county sex offenders right next to a subdivision.

At a public hearing held last Monday, Morrow asked to hear from both sides.

"They let me know real quickly that they don't like this and we want it gone and I promised them that night that I would do everything in my power that it would close," Morrow said.

He says people who live close by aren't letting their kids play outside and women are scared to walk at night. Morrow is also upset he didn't find out about the program earlier.

"I hold the Departments of Pardon and Parole and the Corrections they knew that these inmates were moving in. I'm a state representativethey should have notified me."

As it stands now, no more convicted felons are permitted to stay at the hotel until the building is brought up to code.

With this faith-based halfway house program is on hold for now, Morrow is preparing legislation.

"To at least try and control this situation so people don't have to go through this again," Morrow explained.

Willie Simpson was the executive Director of the ministry and has stepped down, but wouldn't tell us why. He admitted he was an ex-felon who turned his life around in prison and wanted to help others do the same.

The Colbert County Sheriff tells us the owner of the property is trying to relocate the two sex offenders.

He'll have to also meet with an architect with the state to meet fire and building codes.

Also we reached out to the property owner, Chester McKinney Jr. and are waiting to hear back.

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