Members of the Cocke County Legislative Body agreed Monday evening to explore the feasibility of locating a justice center on the county owned Jack farm. The site currently is a soybean field.

That acreage is on Cope Boulevard, just north of the West Broadway intersection.

The body had earlier also considered an expansion of the county courthouse, however, the consensus was that there is not adequate land and available parking at the courthouse.

Commissioner Gary Carver, who chairs the Corrections Partnership and is the Newport city planner, suggested the Cope Boulevard location likely is the best site. He asked the body to approve a location so he and Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger can begin negotiations with engineering firms to do the studies necessary to ensure the acreage is appropriate for a jail or justice center.

“We need to do geotech studies to be sure the site is appropriate. Given my experience, and what I do, planning for the future and considering what we can afford, and considering the way to make staffing easiest, I would recommend we choose the Jack farm,” he told the body. “So we have the room to expand in the future. And I think it creates more opportunity for Cocke County.”

The body also agreed to refinance $1.9 million in debt, saving an estimated $130,000 in interest over the next 10 years.

They agreed to give the contract for new roofs on the courthouse and courthouse annex to RCR Contractors, which submitted a bid of $265,000, or $79,000 less than the bid from Dixie Roofing.

Commissioner Gayla Blazer announced First Call EMS has agreed to allow riders in their ambulance when a patient who needs a relative or friend. A list of county residents who have a recommendation from a physician and who provide a liability release is being prepared by the ambulance service, for future reference.

State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, brought the commission up to date on Nashville activities.

He said the new state budget earmarks an additional $64 million for mental health needs, including residential facilities.

Faison also pointed out funding for distressed counties is increasing, with the grant process being streamlined making it easier for communities to apply for assistance.

With more money earmarked for infrastructure improvements, the lawmaker said work on the new stretch of Highway 411 to Sevierville is expected to pick up.

He also pointed out that Tennessee continues to have the lowest debt of any state in the nation.

The body declined to change the hours of beer sales on Sundays to 10 a.m. from the current noon. Newport and surrounding counties allow sales beginning at 10 a.m.

Commissioner Casey Gilliam asked the safety committee to meet to discuss the issue of pedestrian safety in the Hartford whitewater venue.

Linda Hampton-Parker was reappointed to the Cocke County Regional Planning Commission.

The body approved transferring two acres of land donated by Guy Hommel for a Parrottsville Library, to the library board. Now construction can commence, using funds bequeathed from the Gaylon Thomas Estate.

A $2 electronic filing fee for the register of deeds was approved.