The Hamblen County Commission moved ahead Thursday night in building a jail by approving several resolutions related to the new facility.
The commission approved doing design work on the Hale property, across from the courthouse, designs of a work-release dormitory in the new facility and a generator system that would be fueled by natural gas.
The commission, though, pulled resolutions from the agenda to acquire the Wilder property and a land swap with the Hamblen County Rescue Squad/EMS building, across the street from the current justice center.
“We don’t have an agreement in writing yet,” County Mayor Bill Brittain said.
The Hale property will be used to hold a county maintenance building and expand parking for the courthouse and the justice center.
The commission voted 13-1 to start designs for the parking lot and maintenance building. Commissioner Jeff Akard voted no.
“What size building are you looking at?” Commissioner Chris Cutshaw asked.
Brittain said they do not know the answer yet and that would be part of the design phase. Commissioners asked that designs include a loft in the building for more storage of lightweight materials.
The commission voted 11-3 on the work-release dormitory, which stirred the most questions during the meeting. Commissioners Akard, Bobby Haun and Wayne NeSmith voted against.
Some commissioners asked if it would be better to renovate the existing workhouse, where work-release inmates currently stay.
County officials had proposed building a work-release dormitory inside the new facility that would house the work-release inmates. Brittain said the cost of building the dormitory inside the facility is around $1.5 million, but it was not an extra expense, it would be included in the $66 million estimated price tag of the whole building.
“Is this something we need, or is this a want?” Haun asked.
Capt. Teresa Laws, jail supervisor, said the work-release inmates serve a purpose of going out into the community and working for area nonprofits. She also said if the workhouse were renovated it would also mean jail staff would have to walk to the workhouse from the new facility to deliver food and medication.
“Our thought was the money would be well spent on a new location,” Brittain said.
But there were questions on what the cost of renovation.
“How much will it cost to renovate?” NeSmith asked. “I’d rather pay $100,000 that $1.5 million.”
Brittain responded they didn’t have those numbers.
The commission also voted 12-2 for a gravity-based water system in the new facility with Akard and NeSmith voting no and 13-1 on a natural-gas powered generator that would light the facility during power outages. The cost of the generator was $600,000 and would light only emergency lights in the new jail.
The commission also voted 14-0 to award Sevier-county based nonprofit SafeSpace a $3,250 match for a federal grant it acquired to help with outreach services to domestic violence victims in Hamblen County. The nonprofit applied for the grant after CEASE shut its doors at the end of last month.
The grant will last until the end of the fiscal year on June 31.
NeSmith asked about the money, saying the money is coming from funds that were slated to go to CEASE. A new board has formed to take over the operations CEASE conducted for 39 years.
“We’re taking money from CEASE, what happens with it if this new group forms?” NeSmith asked.
Brittain said the new group could ask for funds in next fiscal year’s budget.
“They won’t be organized by the end of the (fiscal) year,” he said.
The commission also voted 11-3 for new guidelines on junkyards and dumps within the county. Commissioners Akard, NeSmith and Joe Huntsman voted no.
The guidelines state that new junkyards coming in would have new rules regarding buffer trees around those facilities and new stacking guidelines that say material cannot be stacked more than 12-feet high.
As the meeting concluded, County Attorney Chris Capps served local attorney Linda Noe with a summons to appear in Chancery Court. The summons is a result of Noe continuing to video record in the front of the court room after the commission approved a resolution saying anyone videotaping would have to sit in the back of the room on the left hand side of the dais.
The issue boiled over last June when two weeks after the resolution passed, Commissioner Randy Debord asked her to move to the back of the court room. She refused, saying she didn’t think the commission could enforce the policy.
When Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin was asked to remove her from the court room, he said he would not do so unless he had a court order.
Capps said Thursday night the summons would ask the chancellor to order Noe to abide by the rules or be barred from meetings.