DAYTON, Tenn. — The question of the overcrowded Rhea County Jail’s future has residents and county officials weighing in on possible solutions.
Vance Travis, president of TWH Architects Inc., has said that 20,000 to 40,000 total square feet, including one or two additional floors, is needed if the downtown facility is renovated.
He said 10 to 15 acres would be required to build a justice center at another location.
Travis said building more floors at the downtown facility would allow for expansion, but the jail is “just so old and antiquated.”
The jail is rated for a maximum capacity of 87 inmates but held 109 inmates Thursday, officials said.
Rhea County Executive George Thacker said the state is mandating a jail expansion, but figuring out how to do so is difficult. The County Commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday at 6 p.m. on whether a jail or justice center will be built.
A proposal from the Jail Committee to spend $11,000 to review eight possible building sites sparked debate among commissioners at the county’s Purchase and Finance Committee meeting.
Commissioner Bill Hollin argued that the committee hadn’t decided whether to build downtown or at another site, and that the review was unnecessary because two potential sites were in wetlands and another would need extensive leveling.
Hollin said he wanted a second opinion on expanding at the downtown site because the MainStreet Dayton organization now is working to improve four lots that would offer more parking for visitors and employees to the downtown area.
Commissioner Tom Smith suggested using the former Rhea Medical Center location, which now houses Life Care Center of Rhea County.
“There’s a lot of unknowns” before we spend more money, Hollin said.
Smith and Thacker agreed the county should review the medical center site.
The Finance Committee members voted to send the $11,000 proposal to the Budget Committee for approval before they decide.
Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.