If all goes as planned, the process of getting the new jail addition underway should begin immediately and if all goes as planned, the estimated time of completion would be September of 2019, if all goes well. Commission will take up the matter at next Monday's commission workshop. An architect firm will be hired, plans will be drawn and dirt should be moving by or before the end of the year, if all goes well.
Pulling from a quote from a recent News Herald editorial, the time for the hand-wringing and foot-dragging is over.
Commissioners have taken some unfair barbs from the media and even the chairman of the jail committee stating that we, the commission, had been politically afraid to take action, kicking the can down the road, dragging our feet for political reasons and so on. This is just dead wrong.
In reality, this commission has moved at light speed to get where we are, ready to actually build the addition. Only two presentations were made to commissioners to address the jail problems and we acted decisively on the second one.
If anything has held up the process, it was the very committee assigned the job to come up with a doable plan. And to be more precise, it was certain members of that committee who presented the greatest hurdles and to be even more precise it was mostly the chairman of that committee, District Attorney Russell Johnson, that slowed the process to a virtual crawl.
Johnson and other members of the committee know as the "stakeholders" determined early on that nothing short of an all new Justice Center complex with new courts, jails, offices and all the trappings would be proposed knowing full well the cost of such a monstrosity would be impossible without a huge property tax increase. ("stakeholders" Sheriff Tim Guider, Judge Rex Dale, Court Clerk Lisa Niles, Attorney General Russell Johnson and yes that is the same Lisa Niles who has been suing the tax payers for more than two years.)
Commission was told of three critical issues that needed to be addressed, officer safety, inmate overcrowding and prisoner classification. The approved funding will address all three.
I don't fault the "stakeholders for wanting the big show, I imagine we all wish we could afford the biggest and best. I do fault them for knowing full well what a financial burden it would put on the tax payers of Loudon County and still pressing for the biggest.
All I wanted to do here is set the record straight. County commission has acted quickly, prudently, fiscally responsibly and should be commended rather than criticized.