$47M for new Loudon jail not an option
Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
If there's one thing members of the Loudon County Corrections Partnership Committee can agree on, it's that they don't want to ask the County Commission for $47 million to build a new jail.
"I won't put $47 million in front of them," Mayor Buddy Bradshaw said.
County Commissioners in attendance agreed.
"I think we can all agree that's too much," said Commissioner Van Shaver.
Tellico Village resident Richard Anklin pointed out that the county is already about $80 million in debt due to the school building program and other bonds.
"Do we want this county in debt for $120 million?" he asked.
The committee, which met Tuesday to discuss the next phase of the plan to expand the capacity of the county jail, has made little progress since a 2013 study by Mosely Architects estimated the cost of a new jail, courts and offices in the $47 million range.
The 96-bed facility that was first constructed in 1974 — and has undergone several additions — has been under an order from the Tennessee Corrections Institute to reduce crowding.
The biggest question yet to be decided is whether the county should add on to the current jail or build a new jail. In the past, additions have not proved to be a good solution, Bradshaw said.
"Do we want our children having to look at building a new jail in 20 years," he asked.
According to Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider, the current jail was at capacity as soon as the last addition was finished.
"I'm not for spending good money after bad," he said.
Guider said that when the jail reaches about 80 percent capacity it is essentially full. Overcrowding has led to safety issues for inmates and employees. He is also concerned there is not adequate room for the growing population of female inmates that has reached one-third of the total population of the jail.
The key issue is to have room for classification of different inmates into specific levels of security. Another key issue is transportation of prisoners, which increase cost and the danger to guards. Separating the jail from the courts makes the problem of inmate transportation more acute, he said.
Finding enough land to build an expanded facility and new courtroom space is a challenge. The few pieces of usable land are not big enough for the facility when parking and other factors are considered, Guider said.
Tuesday's meeting was not official because the group lacked a quorum. Bradshaw also announced that committee Chairman Judge Rex Dale has resigned from the panel. Secretary Henry Cullen recommended reorganizing the committee with a new chairman.