Sheriff Mike Neal stands in front of the Rhea County Sheriff's Department in this file photo.Photo by Sean McCombs
DAYTON, Tenn. -- Rhea County commissioners this week approved contracts with an architect and a construction management firm to evaluate options and recommend construction of a jail or justice center.
The county jail was decertified more than a year ago as state officials stepped up pressure on the county to relieve overcrowding there.
Sheriff Mike Neal said a week ago that the jail, which is rated to house 87 prisoners, has had as many as 150 inmates this month.
A jail committee has debated whether to build a jail or a larger justice center that would house prisoners and provide room for courtrooms, support space and sheriff's offices, and has considered possible locations for a new facility.
Architect and construction management personnel will review data and examine three sites, including two north of Dayton and one at the present jail location. They are expected to make a recommendation for the commission to consider in 2012. No final date was set for the report.
Also Tuesday, commissioners agreed to renew the county's National Association of Counties membership to provide a discount prescription program for Rhea County residents.
Commission Chairman Jim Reed said all Rhea County pharmacies are expected to be eligible to participate in the program, which would allow residents to save 24 percent on medicines.
Commissioners also voted to waive the $1-per-prescription fee the county could receive on each purchase and to pass that savings on to the customers.
Reed said National Association of Counties staff would promote the program and handle registrations. The program should be available in about 10 weeks, Reed said.
In other matters, commissioners approved a redistricting plan for the county as a result of the 2010 census.
Tom Davis is based in Dayton. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.