published Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Rhea eyes wheel tax for jail funding

DAYTON, Tenn. — The Rhea County Commission will consider at its Tuesday meeting whether to impose a wheel tax as an option to help fund a new jail and school construction projects.

On Friday, Chairman Ronnie Raper said that “there’s going to be a vote” at the meeting on an annual wheel tax that’s not to exceed $50.

Earlier this year, commissioners had agreed to find a means of paying for expanding the current jail or building a new justice center.

Finance Director Bill Graham had told commissioners that a $50 wheel tax could produce an estimated $1.4 million in annual revenue. No estimated costs for a jail or justice center have been given.

County Attorney Carol Ann Barron has said in a resolution that the county needs three facilities: one for the incarceration of prisoners, one for secured court proceedings and a larger high school.

The resolution by Barron stated that the county jail was decertified on June 30, and that the county’s population had increased nearly 31 percent since 1990, along with the per capita income.

According to Linda Shaver, the county clerk, the 2010 census showed 31,809 people living in Rhea County. Nearly 33,000 auto tags are sold annually, Shaver said.

Hewlett Spencer LLC, the project managing firm, originally estimated construction of a larger high school in Evensville, Tenn., to cost under $35 million, but since has presented estimates of nearly $33 million, including renovations to the existing high school and vocational building.

Rhea leaders have said security at the Rhea County Courthouse is problematic when transporting inmates across the street to the jail.

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