|Jail panel moves ahead
Loudon County Corrections Partnership Committee voted unanimously earlier this week to spend up to $60,000 for civil engineering firm Michael Brady Inc., to work on plans for an addition to the Loudon County Justice Center on Highway 11 and Sugarlimb Road.
The proposal must now go before the county’s Budget Committee and the Capital Projects Committee at a Nov. 16 workshop.
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw, who serves on the jail committee, said the next step is to get some “hard numbers,” which will likely take until the first of the year.
“I think that’s going to be a tell-tale,” Bradshaw said. “You know, once we start getting the hard numbers, I think then the commission will be more involved because then we have to start looking at the money, the financing, how we’re going to pay for it.”
Loudon County Accounting and Budget Director Traci Blair said money for plans would be taken out of Fund 112 Courthouse and Jail Maintenance. Bradshaw said he envisions those design costs would be closer to $30,000.
“But I think it’ll get solidified and I think we’re done with phases of talking about it and now we got to do something,” County Commissioner Henry Cullen said.
According to a document presented at the jail committee meeting, Michael Brady Inc., offered two preliminary options.
One option was $12 million for a new 208-bed men’s housing unit with new booking and vehicle sally port, as well as associated site work that included more court parking spaces. A second option for $16 million added renovations to the existing jail for women’s and/or special needs housing. The second option included an expanded kitchen and laundry space.
Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider said it would be “imperative” to consider adding courtroom space.
“I think it’s a good first step,” Cullen said. “We’ve got to determine how it’s going to look out. It came out just where I thought it would be, and I agree that we’ve got to look at the courthouse facility too. ... The issue was to fix the overcrowding, the classification problem and take care of the old jail renovation.”
County Commissioner Leo Bradshaw said an addition will result in a property tax increase. In justification of the tax hike, which jail committee members believe is inevitable with any work done to the Justice Center property, Leo Bradshaw pointed toward a plan by Buddy Bradshaw and Guider to go before the Tennessee Corrections Institute commissioner next month asking to remain certified.
Leo Bradshaw said paying up front with a new jail makes more sense than if the county’s current facility were to lose certification from the state.
“If we’re not in compliance and the state does actually decertify (the jail), then your cost goes up, your insurance cost certainly goes up, your potential for lawsuits goes way up,” Leo Bradshaw said. “So really building more jail space actually is a cost avoidance. It’s going to decrease costs that you’re going to incur if you go through a decertification process. So really you’re saving money — you’re spending money now but you’re saving money in the long run from a ... operating standpoint and more efficient jail too.”
Michael Brady Inc., was originally brought on board in June to conduct a feasibility study for the jail’s current location. The firm was then awarded the job for expanding the county jail in September, beating out Cope Associates and Moseley Architects.
“We may be able to get what we need for, you know, $16 (million),” Leo Bradshaw said. “That’s what we’re going to find out from this first stage. At least we’ll have a better estimate of what the cost will be to satisfy the needs, not the wants, but the needs.”