County OKs $15 million for jail

“I think we have gone over this numerous times and I think it’s past time that we do something about it,” Littleton-Brewster said during the meeting.

Commission Chairman Steve Harrelson said the next step involves soliciting architectural firms for information before ultimately putting it out to bid. Commission must adopt a debt issuance resolution in the future, which will give Budget Director Tracy Blair and Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw the authority to secure the debt.

“Then we can do the bid process after that with the final plans and alternates and what else we can see exactly how much money we’ve got available and go ahead and pass a resolution to borrow the money to do the renovations,” Harrelson said. “... This is showing that we have committed to go ahead and take that next step and commit funding of up to $15 million and get started on the project that we’ve all been wanting to take care of for some time. It’s just good to see that come to a reality finally.”

Ninth Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson, on behalf of the Loudon County Corrections Partnership Committee, presented Monday a $17.5 million proposal, which included four jail pods to accommodate 246 beds and new booking, visitation, kitchen, laundry and recreation areas but no additional parking. Bed space did include renovations of existing dorm housing for 14 beds for women, but other work at the current facility would come later.
Johnson and Sheriff Tim Guider said funding over $15 million could come through a resolution to include Loudon County in a potential litigation tax increase of up to $50.
Johnson requested commission pass the resolution by a two-thirds majority per a request from state Rep. Jimmy Matlock’s, R-Lenoir City, who would then introduce the necessary legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly. Monday’s vote failed 3-7, with Commissioners Shaver, Harrelson, Littleton-Brewster, David Meers, Earlena Maples, Henry Cullen and Matthew Tinker opposing.
Tinker voted against the litigation tax because he felt it was not “necessary to do at this time.”
“There are other means of paying for things like that without putting another tax on the citizens that use the courts,” Tinker said. “If it were just going to be the criminals who were taxed then I would be more for it like ... when we were supporting the judge, but this would be for anyone who uses the court and like the district attorney said, the criminals don’t have a lot of money so most of the revenue’s going to come from people who are able to pay for it.”
Harrelson said the county could come back to the issue later should additional funds be needed.
Commissioners have talked about paying for a jail addition through freed up money in the general debt service, with $400,000 available next year and another $275,000 in 2020. A document presented at a jail committee meeting last week show a $30 litigation tax would bring in an estimated $234,000 per year with a 60 percent collection rate. A $50 tax would bring in $390,000 with the same rate.
The idea is still to do the jail in phases, Harrelson said.
“Ideally I would like to do new construction on the pods, the new pods for jail space now and do renovations on the old jail space,” Harrelson said. “The reason being because it’s for maximum bed space and I think the more beds that we can provide right now with that $15 million the less chance we have the state coming back any time in the near future saying, ‘You’re overcrowded. You’ve got to come up with some more money to do some more additions or build a new jail’.”
Hopes are for the jail committee to meet and start developing “alternates” to help show commissioners what the jail addition would cost if certain sections were added, Harrelson said.
“If we can do alternates on those then we can see what the rest of it’s going to cost and add in those alternates as we are able to to fit within our budget,” he said.
In other news, Loudon County Commission:
• Passed funding assistance to provide water at Luttrell Community Center for $3,200.
• Provided required matching funds of $345,850 for voting machines.
• Authorized application/acceptance for a $21,000 ballistic vest 50 percent match grant for Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, a $3,000 Dollar General Literacy Foundation no-match grant for Greenback Public Library and two $3,000 Pettway Foundation no-match grants for Lenoir City and Greenback public libraries.
• Voted unanimously in favor of authorizing a continuous four-year appraisal cycle for the county.
• Recognized March as American Legion Month.
• Extended appointments for people on the Loudon County Corrections Partnership Committee, Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission and Loudon County Surplus Property Authority, with the only change that Philadelphia Mayor Chris Miller would join the jail committee.
• Renewed Chris Wampler’s services for 2017-18 as the county’s insurance agent.
• Agreed sending out for bid the removal of the Centre 75 Business Park fence.
• Passed a multi-year contract for the ground lease of billboard space on Centre 75 to East West Media for $238,500.
• Approved amendments to the following funds: County General, Public Libraries, Recycling Centers, County Drug, Highway Department, General Purpose School, School Federal Projects, School Cafeteria and General Projects Capital.