In Florida Appears
To Cost Much Less;
Jail Cells Smaller
By Tom Yancey
Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles told the County Commission's Budgetand Finance Committee on Thursday that county officials will ask thelocal legislative delegation for help in easing state square-footagerestrictions at the detention center.
The committee also learned that a county jail now under construction inFlorida appears to have smaller cell-spaces than Tennessee's standardsallow, a fact which may help an effort to reduce inmate spacereqirements here.
Broyles briefly told the committee about Wednesday's action of theTennessee Corrections Institute, which granted certification to theGreene County Detention Center, or jail, for 2009.
"Other counties were there, too," with similar problems, Broyles told the committee.
The TCI had given Greene County until Dec. 3 to come up with a long-term solution to inmate crowding at the detention center.
When the commission could not agree on a solution, Sheriff Steve Burnsworked with other counties and the U.S. Marshal's Service to bring thelocal jail population down to below the official bed capacity for thefacility.
Sheriff Burns reduced the population of the detention center to 152 inmates, which satisfied TCI requirements on crowding.
The jail has 159 beds, but in recent years the facility has housed as many as 400 inmates at a time, using mattresses on floors.
Asked how long the state's certification will continue, Broylesreplied: "As long as we keep the numbers down, and everything else inorder," certification will continue.
Payment For Housing Prisoners
The mayor noted that Greene County has been housing large numbers offederal inmates until recently, and has been compensated $48 perfederal inmate, per day.
The county also has a contract to house state prisoners who are servingsentences of less than three years. The county receives $35 per day incompensation for housing the prisoners who are in state custody.
Because it costs the county substantially less than either of thosecompensation rates to house and feed prisoners, Greene County officialshave become accustomed to the added income and for several years have used it to balance the county's general fund budget.
Keeping the detention center's population below its ratedcapacity of 159 will mean that the county will not be able to house asmany federal prisoners - a situation which will reduce revenues,Broyles said.
The current budget is based on housing an average of 54.25 federalinmates each day, all year. That amount, plus revenue for housingstate-custody inmates, amounts to about $2 million in the currentcounty budget.
In recent months, the county has housed as many as 100 federal inmates,but the number was reduced to 45 recently in order to comply with TCIrules.
Budget Impact Weighed
Commissioner Bill Dabbs asked what effect the reduced numbers will have on the budget.
Budget Director David Lawing said that if the county can continue tohouse 45 federal inmates for the rest of the fiscal year, which endsJune 30, 2009, income from prisoners should finish the year in June"somewhat above" the amount budgeted.
The reason, he explained, is that so many federal inmates were housedin the first half of the fiscal year, which began July 1, 2008.
For the 2009-2010 fiscal year, however, Lawing said, the county budgetcould take in about $300,000 less than the amount that has beenbudgeted recently for revenue coming to the county as payment forhousing federal and state prisoners.
Apparent Cost Disparity?
Broyles said Lawing has had a follow-up conversation with a bondcounselor involved with construction of a jail in Florida. Theconversation gave the county some encouragement, the county mayor said.
Lawing told the committee that James A. Swan, managing director ofBergen Capital, a non-bank subsidiary of BB&T, was surprised at theprojected cost for a new detention center that the Greene CountyCommission has been considering.
The Greene County budget director noted that Swan told a commssionworkshop that the projected $65 million cost of the proposedjail/justice center the Greene County Commission was being asked toconsider was "about double" that of a jail/justice center in Florida he(Swan) was working on which would have about the same number of inmatesas the facility under consideration here.
Lawing said Swan provided a portion of working drawings which wereturned over to Greeneville architect Dave Wright, who has been workingwith Burns and Broyles on jail options.
He said Wright calculated that the cells for the Florida jail projectwere 65 percent smaller than those planned for the local project.
Lawing said he followed up and asked Swan if the planned Florida jailmet state and federal guidelines. "He assured me it was withinguidelines," Lawing said.
In a telephone interview Friday, Wright said he only had a photocopy of a portion of the drawings to work with.
Plans More Research
The portion did not include very many dimensions, Wright said, but heused what information was available to do rough calculations.
He said his calculations showed that the cell space allowed in theFlorida jail is "a lot smaller" than the TCI is allowing in Tennessee.
Wright said the 65 percent figure that Lawing quoted is a "guess-timate" to an extent, but one that he believes is fairly close.
"It would have been nice to have a whole set of plans to look at,"Wright said. He said he plans to do additional research on the Floridaspecifications as soon as next week.
Difference In Cost
Swan also provided a "Conceptual Estimate Survey" for the Baker CountySheriff's Complex in Macclenny, Fla., west of Jacksonville.
Lawing said he was told the jail has 512 beds, and includes a justicecenter. The $65 million option that Greene County was shown in earlyNovember had 576 beds.
The estimate put the total cost of the Florida jail at just over $32million. That total includes a $12 million administrative building, a$1.5 million fleet maintenance building, and a $400,000 coveredwalkway, common in Florida.
The Florida project also included $448,000 for utility impact fees, a cost that Lawing said would be much smaller here.
The actual jail pods were projected at $13.8 million on the sheet Swan provided to Lawing.
Broyles told the committee, "I think what we need to concentrate on nowis working with (state Sen.) Steve Southerland and (stateRepresentatives) David Hawk and Eddie Yokley to guide us in the rightdirection with the state legislature."
The county mayor said he had already talked to Southerland, and alsoplans to contact the Tennessee County Mayors Association and the CountyCommissioners Association.
"With about 65 counties in the same boat, we should have some strength in numbers," Broyles said.