Sustainability Partners says it will build and maintain new county jail facility for monthly fee

Published 4:08 pm Thursday, April 4, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

NATCHEZ — Bert Carson, an infrastructure partner with Sustainability Partner of Chandler, Arizona, introduced a novel concept to the Adams County Board of Supervisors as a way to obtain a new county jail.

At the supervisors’ meeting on Monday morning, Carson said his company would provide the money to build the facility and would continue to maintain it in exchange for a monthly usage fee payment from the county.

Further, he said his company’s agreement with the county would be a month-to-month contract.

Email newsletter signup

Carson said, if at some point down the road the county for whatever reason chose to no longer do business with Sustainability Partners, the county would then pay off the prorated cost of the construction of the facility.

“We don’t mark anything up. So basically, if they decided they didn’t like us anymore, they would pay for what the project costs on a prorated basis. We would just recoup our costs with no penalties and no prepayment of anything,” he said.

Sustainability Partners’ fee is built into the monthly usage fee for the facility.

“Our fee is eight-tenths of one percent of the project. That is what we charge,” Carson said.

Sustainability Partners represents pension funds and insurance funds that are looking at long-term investments for their money.

“These are the same people who put money into bonds,” Carson said. “What they have realized is if they give a bond to say, Natchez, for example, in 10 years, Natchez probably will refinance that bond. So now they are getting paid back and will need to find something else to do with that money. They love our model for investing money because we are maintaining the infrastructure we build and are keeping it up to date. They know it’s not going to the pits. We are out to make 100-year customers.”

The goal of Sustainability Partners, which was founded approximately 11 years ago, is to make America’s infrastructure better.

“Take for example a city that had to build a sewer treatment plant 10 years ago and had to finance it through bonds. They’ve now had to refinance it three times, and it’s not working because they haven’t properly maintained it,” Carson said. “Our company becomes your silent partner. We are sustaining your infrastructure. During COVID, we suspended the payments of the municipalities that needed that. In the end, they asked what they owed us for that time they weren’t paying. They didn’t owe us anything. We are your partners for the long term, your 100-year partners. Our customers are willing to take a smaller yield in the long term because, if we do our job, they will continue to have something of value for the long term.

“Sustainability Partners is a public benefits company. We are trying to make America’s infrastructure better,” he said. “We don’t rent the facility. We don’t lease the facility. We are partners with the municipality in owning and maintaining the infrastructure. We are the money, not the building.”

A native of Baker, Louisiana, Carson has Natchez roots. His mother is from Natchez and graduated from Natchez High School.

“I probably spent every summer in Natchez with my grandmother and other family,” he said.

Sustainability Partners, while headquartered in Arizona, has offices in New York and Baton Rouge, where Chandler is based.

Most officials agree Adams County is in need of a new jail facility. Most of the county’s inmates are being housed in the Concordia Parish Jail through a contract with Adams County because of unsafe conditions in the county’s jail.

Debbie Germany has volunteered to head up a jail exploratory committee sanctioned by the county supervisors and is exploring options for a new county jail or criminal justice complex. An as-yet anonymous business has agreed to donate more than 30 acres of land off of U.S. 61 north of Natchez for use in locating a new county jail.

The supervisors expressed some interest, but took no action on the jail proposal on Monday.