By Mike Cason
MONTGOMERY - A small church property in Chilton County where dozens of sex offenders have lived over the last four years will apparently no longer be able to house them.
Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law HB 556, pertaining only to Chilton County, that prohibits registered sex offenders from living on the same property within 300 feet of each other unless they are related.
Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, sponsored the bill because of the multiple sex offenders living behind Triumph Church, which is on a two-lane highway just outside Clanton. There are camper trailers behind the church for the men.
Ricky Martin, who operates the facility, declined to talk to AL.com for this article.
The law gives the district attorney's office the authority to file a civil complaint against someone owning or leasing property where more than one unrelated sex offender lives. The law takes effect July 1.
C.J. Robinson, chief assistant district attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit, who helped write the bill, said notice would be given before a complaint is filed. He said the law gives judges the authority to issue fines of up to $5,000 per violation.
“It’s one of those things where we’re not going way overboard with the punishment,” Robinson said.
Under Alabama’s sex offender laws, offenders are required to notify authorities when they move into a county, and authorities notify nearby residents.
Robinson said he received notices for 51 sex offenders moving to the address from August 2010 through October 2013.
Many have come and gone. Robinson said he’s not aware of any moving there this year.
Chilton County Sheriff Kevin Davis said last week there were 10 offenders living at the address and one had filed his paperwork to move.
Davis said he’s not aware of any problems caused by the men.
Brandy Morrison, 26, has lived next door to the church for four years. She said she worries sometimes but that the men have never bothered anybody. She said one of the men helps her father with work around the yard.
Morrison says the family takes precautions when nieces and nephews visit and play outside.
“We always make sure they stay real close because you never know,” Morrison said.
Wallace worked on the bill for several years and at one point had a statewide version that would have required facilities with multiple sex offenders to have a live-in monitor and obtain a license from the county sheriff.
He said he thought the bill that passed, more simple and applying only to Chilton County, would achieve the purpose.
"The guys who are there now are going to have to find somewhere else to go," Wallace said.
Wallace and Robinson said one objection they have had to the facility is that most of the men are from outside the county.
Robinson said only two of the 51 men committed their crimes in Chilton County. One of those was a misdemeanor, he said.
“These are not folks from Chilton County who committed a crime and are coming back home,” Robinson said.