Mayor pushes for Decatur Work Release Center name change

DECATUR, Ala. - A Decatur work release inmate has walked off the job every month for the past few months.

Now the city's mayor wants to distance the city from the Decatur Work Release Center by cutting "Decatur" from its name.

Mayor Tab Bowling fears the flow of escapees from the center shines a negative light on the city when the facility isn't even in city limits.

"I think it could be smart because it's not in Decatur," said Lynsey Staggs, owner of Urban Atlas. "And so if it was 'Tennessee Valley' or 'North Alabama,' something like that."

Those examples are the same ones Bowling gave Friday. They're ones he says wouldn't deter businesses or newcomers.

Lynsey Staggs opened her shop downtown in June and she's all about more people in the area.

"I was actually thinking the other day, I was driving home from work and I was like, 'there are so many people on the roads! I wish there were more roads!'" she said.

Another shop owner down the road says the number of escaped inmates actually became a running joke with her workers. What isn't a joke is the steps being taken to change the center's name. 

A resolution to change it that was backed by the city, a state senator, and the state department of corrections, was passed in the Senate last legislative session, but failed in the House.

Another local feels that may not have been such a bad thing.

"I think there's more underlying problems than just the work release center having 'Decatur' in the title," said Will Kirby. "I would say just do what you need to do. Maybe change it. I don't think it's gonna have that much of an effect."

The city's been working to encourage business growth and in the past few months has formed new partnerships to do so.

"A lot of people that I talk to that work around here, they try to draw in young people," Staggs said. "So I think if it's like, 'oh wow Decatur has so many cool things, I wanna live here when I get out of high school,' stuff like that. I think that would definitely bring people in."

Staggs hopes the local businesses can outshine any negative light the escaped inmates may have cast. 

Bowling says the resolution to change the center's name will have another go next legislative session.

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