After voting in August to expand on the current Loudon County Justice Center property, Loudon County Corrections Partnership Committee members apparently called an audible and decided to at least consider a new facility in the Centre 75 Business Park off Interstate 75 in Loudon.
Members reviewed numerous options during a Wednesday meeting, including renovating the current facility to house 275 beds at a cost of $19 million. A similar option consisted of an extra courtroom and 275 beds and would cost $20 million.
The new plan, which was presented by Michael Brady Inc., and Treanor Architects, will free up additional courtroom and jail space at the current facility.
A $16 million third option included room for 233 beds and the relocation of Loudon County Fire and Rescue Squad from its location on Sugarlimb Road.
“So they’re looking at a renovation of the existing Justice Center for about $20 million, which includes a one additional court and expanding the jail population — the bed count — to 275 and all the things it takes to make both of those things work,” Jay Henderlight, MBI architect, said.
Leo Bradshaw, jail committee member and a Loudon County commissioner, said the plan would “eliminate the transport of inmates” to Loudon County Courthouse by potentially housing criminal court on-site. The plan would also reduce labor costs and help improve safety for officers.
After options were presented, committee members considered building a jail on a new site similar to a project in Monroe County. Henderlight said Monroe’s facility will cost about $30 million.
Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider said he was in favor of building on a new piece of property so the county would not need more jail space for the foreseeable future. He said asking the county to fund a project for more jail space will not be a “popular sale.”
“Looking at what Monroe County has proposed and what they’ve already done, they’re going to have plenty of space for future additions or expansions, I guess, where we’ll be all but landlocked here for sure,” Guider said. “That’s where we’ll be, and I felt like — in ‘04, well, it all started in like ‘01 in planning and things. We moved here in ‘04, so I felt like even then the term may be ‘spending good money after bad.’ ... But I would hate to just see us do that again.”
The last expansion to the Justice Center was in 2004 and included the addition of 34 beds, more office space and courtroom renovations, Guider said. That project cost about $5 million at the time.
Bradshaw said he has reservations on how much support there will be for a new Justice Center, but still thinks there is a “possibility.”
“I guess I wasn’t really leaning that direction until I seen the cost involved with doing the other options, but there’s only about — between option two and option one, there was only about $1.5 million difference, so that made a difference,” he said. “And then if option two is the time it’s finished is probably going to be more like $21-$22 million, I think, difference between that and 30 (million) — it’s not that huge amount of money that makes you really consider spending more money and really taking care of the problem for several, 20, 30, 40 years.”
During Loudon County Commission meeting in February, Bradshaw estimated a facility in the range of $12-$14 million will raise a tax rate 5-6 pennies, while $25 million will raise the tax rate 8-9 pennies.
The next jail committee meeting is set for noon April 20 at the Justice Center. Loudon City Council will be invited, and Loudon County Budget Director Tracy Blair will be in attendance. Blair will attend to help committee members with financial considerations.
“They will be trying to make a determination based off their current financial situation whether they will propose to the county commission the $20 million project or the $30 million project,” Henderlight said. “... They’re doing research this week, working with their finance director to just see what’s the impact to be able to come up with the monies for each of those.”
According to the Loudon County Property Assessors Office, a deed from 1999 shows the county and city of Loudon both share ownership in Centre 75 Business Park.
About 15 acres will be needed for a new facility, Bradshaw said.
Members will meet with county commission at 6 p.m. April 28 at the Loudon County Courthouse.
“The scope is very similar to their scope,” Henderlight said about the Monroe County facility. “They’re just wanting to kick around is it worth building a brand new one instead of spending 20 (million dollars) for renovating an existing one, (or) would it be better to spend 30 (million dollars) and have a whole new facility?”