The path to fixing the Metro Moore County Jail has been fast tracked since the jail failed its annual state inspection this past summer for the first time in its 25-year history.
On Monday night, the Metro Lynchburg Moore County Council voted unanimously to approve a $1.3 million improvement/upgrade to the jail that should get the county out of hot water with the state-ran Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI).
In November, the Council’s five-member Budget Committee — Coleman March (1st Dist.), Wayne Hawkins (2nd Dist.), Gordon Millsaps (3rd Dist.), David Boyce (4th Dist.) and Tommy Brown, Chair (5th Dist.) —voted 5-0 to approve the measure, sending it before the council for the first reading at the November meeting.
The second reading was held on Dec. 1 and the required third and final reading was held Monday night. After hearing briefly from Brown, the council quickly passed the measure and moved along to other business.
“Basically it’s just going to the architect and the contractor now,” said Mayor Sloan Stewart. “They will submit the plant to TCI for approval. Who knows when they will give their stamp of approval.”
Stewart said the project is now in the hands of the TCI and added that while there was a deadline to submit a plan, “there’s not a deadline for completion of the project.”
Many members of the council expressed their displeasure of the state mandate — a TCI directive — that is requiring an expensive overhaul of the county jail.
Surrounding counties are in similar situations, with Lincoln County adding 250 beds to its jail at a cost of more than $7 million and Coffee County adding approximately 400 beds to its jail.
According to county officials, both of those jails will be at near capacity conditions by the time the additions are finished. That’s a struggle that effects Moore County as well. Because of limited space, Moore County Sheriff Mark Logan is unable to transfer female inmates from its small but over-populated female sector.
And the tightening of the TCI regulations has simply put the county in a bind. Without a remedy — or at least a plausible plan in place — the fear was that the jail could be decommissioned. While the jail would still be functional, Moore County Sheriff Mark Logan told the council that a scenario such as that could open the county up to a number of frivolous lawsuits by inmates.
At its regular November meeting, Logan presented Council members with a detailed estimate from Bell & Associates Construction outlining the costs and requirements, which were based on a conceptual sketch from Cope Associates, Inc. Architecture.
That price tag is $1,353,530. Once started, the construction is estimated to take around seven months and should satisfy the state’s new codes for correctional facilities.
—ROBERT HOLMAN, editor & publisher