Loudon County Commission is taking a step back in hopes of getting detailed information on options for a new courthouse annex.
After lengthy discussion, commissioners voted Monday to have architectural firm Michael Brady Inc., develop a side-by-side comparison on costs for a structure on the old Bacon Creamery property in Loudon and on the current Loudon County Courthouse site.
Commissioners Kelly Littleton-Brewster and Van Shaver initially motioned and seconded, respectively, to consider those options and the justice center property at Highway 11 and Sugarlimb Road. However, Littleton-Brewster made an amendment, seconded by Commissioner Matthew Tinker, because the justice center land is located outside the county seat of Loudon. The amendment passed 8-2, with Shaver and Commissioners Harold Duff opposing.
A formal vote on the motion as amended passed 7-3, with Shaver, Duff and Commissioner Julia Hurley opposing.
“I think MBI’s going to be getting us a detailed cost and idea of what each location’s going to cost and I think that’s important if we can go to the old courthouse and 10,000 or 15,000 (square feet) — hopefully 10,000 can go in the back and save us $3 million, I don’t know,” Adam Waller, county commissioner, said. “... Maybe a little hallway connecting too so we don’t put it right against the old courthouse, I don’t know. That’s why I’m curious to see what they come back with.”
Commission during its December workshop discussed at length the creamery property, but Waller said public comment Monday was a factor in the county’s decision to take a step back.
“I think hearing from the sheriff in terms of what he thinks, operating costs, but I also don’t want to forget what the court systems need in terms of Lisa Niles and Steve Harrelson and we can’t leave out what they need so their needs need to be met in whatever we do either place,” Waller said. “There’s a lot of things to consider.”
MBI representatives Jay Henderlight and David Matlock were present Monday. Loudon and Loudon Utilities Board representatives were also present.
Henderlight initially said evaluations for all three initial properties, including the justice center, could be at least $20,000 apiece.
Henry Cullen, commission chairman, said the county budget committee will meet again Jan. 21. He hopes to have funding for the evaluation figured out in time for the February workshop.
Cullen said too many questions were unanswered to give the creamery site “blanket approval.”
“And then $7 million. Can you do it for $7 million?” Cullen said. “... I think we’ve got to take a deep look. A lot of people are rushing off the bridge, ‘Do this, do this, do this.’ I’m not there.”
Commissioners in June authorized issuance of debt for up to a $7 million bond.
Commissioner David Meers initially motioned to open dialogue with LUB on the old creamery site, but he later withdrew the motion for lack of support. He sees benefits in getting more information on both sites.
“If you have a breakdown, if you have matrix, both proposals, I think it could give us solid information to make a decision that would be best for the county,” Meers said.
Shaver opposed both votes and maintained his desire for the justice center property.
“At this point, if the justice center is out then obviously people are making decisions not what’s best for our men and women in our uniform but they’re making political decisions,” Shaver said. “It’s disappointing to say the least. There’s still a long way to go. This could still change again. I’d like to think more reasonable minds will come together, and the justice center is the really only logical place to go.”
In other news, Loudon County Commission:
• Removed a Priority Ambulance contract on the agenda so that it could be discussed more this month.
• Approved a resolution to consent and authorize execution of a license and lease agreement between Loudon County, Loudon Utilities Board and Loudon.
• Passed board and committee term updates for the Loudon County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Construction Board of Adjustment & Appeals, Planning & Zoning Study Appeals (ad hoc) and Loudon County Visitors Bureau Board of Directors.
• Authorized a bond resolution for Tellico Area Service Systems and passed a resolution for the county to submit a 2020 Community Development Block Grant application for TASS.
• Amended the county’s zoning resolution, article 7, pertaining to administration and enforcement of Tennessee Code Annotated, section 13-7-105.
• Agreed to send a letter to Gov. Bill Lee opposing refugee resettlement.
• Accepted a $5,000 donation for the construction of a cattery at Loudon County Animal Shelter.
• Approved application and acceptance of $25,000 technology no-match grant for the Loudon County Elections Commission office.
• Amended the County General Fund by increasing full-time staff by one employee and reducing part-time staff by one employee in sessions court.
• Passed reclassification of employee rank structure for the sheriff’s office and jail. Commission increased patrol corporals by one and decreased patrol deputies by one. Three corrections sergeants were added, while three corrections officers were decreased.