Finance-To-Own Facility's Cost
Estimated To Be $40 Million
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Commission will hold a workshop on Monday to hear a financing proposal for a new $40 million Justice Center, which would include a jail, a courthouse and the Sheriff's Department.
Monday's workshop will be held at 3 p.m., in the Criminal Courtroom on the top floor of the Greene County Courthouse.
A Purchasing Committee meeting will follow at 4:30 p.m., along with a 5 p.m. Republican Caucus and the 6 p.m. County Commission meeting.
A joint meeting of three County Commission committees -- Courthouse/Workhouse, Budget & Finance, and Law Enforcement -- took place Friday at the Courthouse Annex, during which members heard three finance-to-own options for building a $40 million justice center.
Greeneville architect Dave Wright, who has worked with the county on detention center projects for a number of years, explained that each of the three companies was asked to make a presentation based on the $40 million amount so that there would be an even comparison.
County Mayor Alan Broyles requested that the committees meet together to hear these proposals as a way to fund a new jail that might be an alternative to funding a new facility with a property tax increase.
Little discussion and no answers were given during the meeting as to what would happen to the current detention center and courthouse if the county should decide to go forward with one of the proposals for a new combined facility at a different location.
There is considerable pressure on the commission to have these discussions, however, because of the decertification of the Greene County Detention Center in 2012 by the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) as a result of overcrowding.
The decertification greatly increases the county's liability in the event of lawsuits related to the jail and could result in a judge ordering the county to build a new facility, according to TCI officials.
Greene County is not able to follow the traditional government practice of selling bonds to obtain funds for a new facility or extensive renovations because the county's capacity to borrow is already at a maximum, it has been explained.
It will be 2017 before the county's existing debt service decreases enough for the county to take out another bond, and that will only be for $100,000, Budget Director Mary Shelton said.
During the five-hour meeting from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., without a break for lunch, commissioners heard from the following companies:
* Cope Architecture, partnered with Municipal Capital Markets Group, Inc., (MCM) and Bell & Associates Construction;
* J.A. Street & Associates General Contractor, United Companies, and Pre-Construction Services, Inc.; and,
* Moseley Architects and Hodge Associates.
All agreed that they would incorporate Wright in the project, but Moseley Architects, in particular, included Wright as "the third vital member of our team."
In addition, at Broyles' request, all said that they would consider in their cost analysis proposals for conversion of the former Magnavox Plant #3/Philips Consumer Electronics Co./Five Rivers Electronic Innovations, LLC building.
Broyles explained that he was requesting this analysis based on constituent interest.
Other potential options for a cost analysis would be 1) the county's building a new facility on the Wayne Hartman property located on Hal Henard Road and 2) expanding and upgrading the current detention center on East Depot Street.
The Cope team, of Knoxville, emphasized their experience with more than 40 county corrections/judicial projects.
They presented a design/build/finance example of a 500-bed jail costing a maximum $40 million, with annual lease-to-own payments of $3.1 million for 20 years, or $2.5 million a year for 30 years.
The team offered a one-year deferral from the start of operations before these payments would need to begin.
The J.A. Street team did not give specific finance numbers, but said instead that they would formulate these based on the county's requests in a building.
The team, of Blountville, is currently finishing a jail expansion in Marion, Va., and emphasized their local advantage.
They expressed confidence in their ability to build a pre-engineered jail and provide the needed financing through United Companies, which would include a six-month payment deferral.
In contrast to the other two teams, Moseley did not come with someone already on hand, ready to finance the project.
Instead, Vice President Dan Mace proposed allowing the architects and consultants to design exactly the jail Greene County needs, and then present this plan for competitive bidding by contractors and developers.
The total cost of the jail would still be managed under one payment, at one point, but Mace said this would result in a better interest rate and pricing.
The interest the county will be forced to carry will result in a "huge cost," Mace said.
"Certainly we can put together a team [without the competitive bidding] ... but it won' t be at the best price," he told members.
"We'll put it at risk," he said. "You don't have to pay if we can't get developers to bid."
While the committees made no formal recommendation, members informally expressed their preference for Moseley's presentation, asking that the team give the presentation again before the full County Commission.
Commissioner Lloyd "Hoot" Bowers originally made this motion, but Mayor Broyles asked that the vote come from members of the Courthouse/Workhouse Committee. Bowers is not a member of that committee.
Commissioner Jimmy Sams then made the motion, but it prompted some objections from fellow Courthouse/Workhouse Committee members Robin Quillen and Tim White, both of whom argued that the county was beginning to jump ahead too quickly without completely considering renovation of the current facility or reduction of the current jail population to relieve the overcrowding.
"We don't have the money," Quillen said, encouraging the members to continue taking steps for recertification of the current facility.
"I hope we can [build a new facility]. I know we need a new jail badly," she added.
TIME TO JUMP?
Commissioner White also asked for continued study. He requested, however, that the discussion be taken out of the committees and put before the full commission.
"It seems to me we're jumping to build a new jail," he said.
"I don't think we're ready for that -- to jump in," Commissioner Phil King agreed.
"Is it not pretty evident that we've got to jump?" Commissioner Hilton Seay replied.
Mayor Broyles stated that the TCI would see this financing consideration and agreeing to hire architects and engineers as "a step" toward the county's deserving recertification of the jail.
"We can meet from now until doomsday, but without funding, we're not going to do anything," he said. "That's all it is, to see where the county can get funding."
Mike Treadway, of Hodges Associates, noted that hiring architects and engineers was the first recommendation from the County Technical Assistance Service's Inmate Population Evaluation, which commissioners received during the meeting.
White again emphasized that he would like to review this study and seek ways to reduce the population at the current facility.
"I would like to be out of this hole here in the middle of town -- be out here on Hal Henard Road where he's got good transport, safe, ... the courtrooms," White said.
"I'd love to have that. If we could work that out, I would not be totally opposed to it. But man, we've got money issues."
"We're down to a population of about 220 and based on that, you're already costing the tax payers about $1 million a year," Sheriff Steve Burns said, estimating that he has reduced the population by about 50 to 60 state and federal inmates.
"We're still 70 inmates overcrowded," he added.
At the end of discussion, Quillen brought Sams' motion back to the table with the understanding that there is no recommendation from the committee and that the presentation should be given in a workshop rather than in an official meeting.
The motion passed with White abstaining from the vote.