A 54-Acre Parcel
On 11E Is Focus
By TOM YANCEY
Three Greene County Commission committees working on a long-term plan to house more inmates voted unanimously Tuesday to seek ways to build a justice center and new county detention center, on a new site, without a property tax increase.
The Budget & Finance Committee, the Courthouse/Workhouse Committee and the Law Enforcement Committee have been trying to come up with a long-range plan to deal with jail crowding, in response to a threat of de-certification by the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI).
The committees have been meeting jointly for several months.
Commissioner Robbie Morgan's motion was approved unanimously by those present.
Morgan's motion was to ask the county sheriff, county mayor, county attorney and architects "to proceed with the appropriate study" needed to give enough information for the committees to recommend purchasing a 54-acre site, subject to satisfactory core drillings and underground tests.
No opposition was voiced. Eight commissioners -- Betty Ruth Alexander, Alex Edens, Hilton Seay, Morgan, Phil King, Rennie Hopson, William Dabbs and John D. Carter -- were present.
Architect Dave Wright thanked the committee after the vote, saying, "That pushes us forward."
County offiicials have been told Greene County needs a plan for the detention center, or jail, in place by the end of this year to maintain certification of the county detention center.
County Sheriff Steve Burns, working with state and federal officials, has presented the committees with a funding plan that uses increased revenues from housing more state and federal inmates, avoiding the need for a property tax hike.
A key part of the plan is the availability of federal inmates awaiting trial in U.S. District Court here, or awaiting transfer to federal prisons.
U.S. Marshal Jeff Hedden told the committees on Tuesday that he has been able to recommend that higher numbers of federal prisoners awaiting trial in U.S. District Court here be held at the Greene County Detention Center, which is certified as a jail by the Tennessee Corrections Institute.
The federal marshal also said he has been able to recommend that higher "per diem" rates be paid to the county for housing federal prisoners from a number of jurisdictions.
However, Heddon told the committees that if state certification is lost, it would be very difficult for him to continue to recommend housing federal prisoners in Greeneville.
The vote followed a presentation by architects Wright, of Greeneville, and Dan Bolt, of Salem, Va.
Last week, the three committees asked Wright and Bolt to come back with cost estimates for building various sizes of jails on a 54-acre site at the intersection U.S. Highway 11E and Hal Henard Road.
That property is being offered to the county for $1.5 million. The owner, Wayne Hartman, has offered to let the county pay over a 10-year period, at terms half a percentage point lower than a bond would cost.
Wright presented estimates he said were made using the R.S. Means national construction cost database for the first quarter of 2008.
$13.3 Or $17.5 Million
Wright estimated that a 200-bed detetnion center, including kitchen, laundry, intake and administrative spaces, can be built for $13.3 million if the go-ahead comes soon.
Wright said the cost estimate could rise to $17.5 million in 36 months, based on 10 percent inflation per year. The jail would be on one level. The committees have been told that single-level jails require fewer guards.
The estimated cost of building two large courtrooms and two small ones at the same location, plus new court offices and records storage, as well as a new Sheriff's Department office, would be $7.6 million if work starts this spring, Wright said, but could rise to $9.8 million in 36 months.
Wright said these figures include about $2 million for site preparation. He also said the space allowed for the Circuit Court Clerk's offices is about 45,000 square feet, triple the space that office has now. The Circuit Court Clerk maintains records for Circuit, Criminal, General Sessions and Juvenile courts. He said plans call for about twice as much space as the sheriff's office now occupies.
Bolt said that if the site permits it, he would like for the justice center to have a basement that could be used for future storage, and also a freight elevator.
Need For Parking Spaces
Burns began the meeting by saying that parking seems to be the main element missing from a plan the two architects presented for building a new detention center downtown, behind the existing one.
At past meetings, the committees have also been shown plans for adding a new detention center building to the Summer Street site of the county's workhouse, and separate plans for redeveloping the vacant Circuit Systems building into a jail, with additions for courts and the sheriff's office.
Burns said Tuesday that neither of those sites have enough room to handle expansion and still leave room for adequate parking.
Burns said that when jury selection is going on, "as many as 200 to 300 people" convene at the courthouse, "and not many of them carpool."
Burns said most jurors have to park at the Town Square Shopping Center, at least two blocks from the courthouse, regardless of the weather, and the same is true for witnesses and many attorneys during trials.
Wright said he had received eight to 10 phone calls since last week's meeting, most of them expressing concern about removing court activities from downtown. Wright and the sheriff said plans now call for leaving Chancery Court in the courthouse, and perhaps moving some functions there that now are located elsewhere.
Burns said the decision is ultimately one to be made by the Greene County Commission.
Ideally, the sheriff said, he would prefer to build a 300-bed detention center, or jail, and a justice center at the same time. However, the sheriff said he would prefer a 200-bed detention center, or jail, with a justice center built at the same time, than having a 300-bed detention center without a justice center.
Wright said a 300-bed detention center would cost about $19.9 if work starts immediately, but the estimate would rise to $26.6 million in 36 months.
He said a 400-bed detention center would cost $26.6 now, but could grow to $35.1 million in three years, and a 500-bed detention center would cost $33.2 million if started now, but be projected to grow to $44.2 million in three years.