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After years of complaints and safety issues, the Grundy County Commissions is finally ready to accept bids for a new jail.
Vance Travis, an architect with TWH Architects out of Chattanooga, announced that contractors have until September 4 to file sealed bids for the projected 96-bed detention center. The new facility will be located behind the courthouse and include 20 beds for women and administrative offices.
Travis said the goal is to keep costs of building a new jail low, and estimates the new cost between $6 million and $6.5 million.
“It’s pretty bare-bones type of facility that we’ve thrashed through for the past two years to whittle down the size and area,” Travis stated. “There’ll be parking areas for the sheriff and an impoundment area for confiscated vehicles and other equipment. It’s also capable of being expanded in the future. You can add housing without having to increase administrative functions.”
The current jail, built in the 1970s, remains uncertified since 1990s. At the time, state officials determined the capacity at 32 inmates. Throughout the last two decades, the jail has consistently housed upward of 50 inmates at a time. This includes four beds for female prisoners.
Controversy surrounds the jail and the proposal to build a new facility. A petition circulated earlier this year opposed construction bonds and county commissioners repealed a bond sought in 2010.
County officials believe funds from the new bond will see the facility through construction with no further tax increases. However, operational costs are another matter.
It was hoped that a 19.4 percent property tax hike last year would provide needed revenue for county government while producing some money to go toward the new jail’s operational costs.
The new Grundy County Detention Center will take “more electricity, more water, more food, more inmates, more staff, and that’s annually,” said County Mayor Lonnie Cleek, stating that the jail’s operational budget could increase to $500,000 over current expenses.