Guest Commentary By Richard Anklin
The Loudon County Corrections Partnership Committee (LCCPC), made up of District Attorney General Russell Johnson, General Sessions Court Judge Rex Dale, Sherriff Tim Guider, Circuit Court Clerk Lisa Niles, Mayor Buddy Bradshaw, County Commissioners Leo Bradshaw, Henry Cullen and Bill Satterfield has been meeting for the past 18+ months.
In this month’s Loudon County Commissioners Meeting (LCC), the LCCPC brought forward their “recommendation” of $31 mil to build a new Justice Center in the I-75 / Hwy 72 Industrial Park - in-lieu of expanding at the existing location. They recommended adopting the drawing of the Monroe County Justice Center having a 349 bed jail, new Sherriff’s, Court Clerk and Attorney Offices and 3 court rooms. This drawing has 119,866 SF of new construction verses expanding at the existing site with a smaller jail & offices.
I do not think the $31 mil new Justice Center will hold because the Industrial Center site would need at least $5-8 mil in changes. These changes are due to the sites configuration for roads and parking lots, utilities (water, sewer & electric), relocation expenses, furniture/fixtures/equipment and, the modifications surely required by the DAG, Judge, Sherriff and Court Clerk upon vetting for their wants and needs.
Costs for expanding the existing site would range in Options from a low of $18.2 mil for 275 beds having 70,706 SF, expanded offices and 2 courts, $19.8 mil for 275 beds having 78,485 SF, expanded offices and 3 courts to the high of $25.6 mil for 275 beds having 85,700 SF, bigger expanded offices and 4 courts. Costs rise for offices and courts while jail beds remain the same.
The estimated property tax increase, for the new Justice Center, would be 18.24 cents or a 9.8% increase per $100 assessed value versus 10 cents or 5.4% to fund $20 mil of new and renovated construction at the existing site. County Commission will likely be voting on this recommendation at their meeting on September 6th.
After 18 months of study we are back to a similar high cost option as presented back in November 2013. We engaged three Architectural firms to vet the feasibility on the existing site (it’s feasible), hired one (MBI) to create Options and then discarded them. Is the LCCPC more interested in offices and courts than solving the jail overcrowding at a reasonable cost to the Taxpayer? If not, why not?