Rhea County eyes contracts on jail, justice center

Rhea County eyes contracts on jail, justice center

December 15th, 2011 by Tom Davis in News

Technical Advisory Service jail consultant Jim Hart

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

DAYTON, Tenn. -- Rhea County commissioners will consider contracts with a construction management firm and an architect Tuesday to get advice on relieving jail overcrowding.

The county Purchase and Finance Commission already has approved the step.

Sheriff Mike Neal told commissioners, "At this point I'm not asking for anybody to build a jail or a justice center. We have a decertified jail -- I have 120 inmates today and this month I'm averaging 150. If the fire marshal came in today and told me I have to move 25 or 30 inmates, I have no place to send them. It's the commission's responsibility to build a jail, not the sheriff's."

The proposed architect for the project is Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects Inc., of Mount Juliet, Tenn. The construction manager is Dillard Construction of Dayton.

Commissioner Bill Hollin said estimates for a jail range between $4 million and $5 million, while the cost of a justice center would be about $13 million.

"The first thing we need to decide is whether to build a jail or a justice center," he said.

Commissioner Ron Masterson said, "From what I've heard, we need a facility to house prisoners. If we need a facility to house prisoners, we need a jail. I think we need to build a jail adjacent to the current structure and look at a justice center later."

Commissioner Gordon Parks said, "If we decide to build a jail, I think we can get nine commissioners on board right now."

Neal responded, "If you build on our parking lot, you create more confusion for the courts. We need to get an architect and construction manager, not to build anything, but to bring a proposal back to you."

County Technical Advisory Service jail consultant Jim Hart recommended hiring an architect to develop a plan based on current needs and projected growth and to recommend which alternative best would suit the county.

"You're at a point where you need to formalize what the options are," he said.

According to the item to be placed on next week's agenda, commissioners will ask an architect and construction management firm to evaluate three pieces of property and recommend either a jail or justice center.