Large yellow school buses began pulling up in front of the Grundy County Jail in Altamont in the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 16. Responding to a call from the sheriff’s office, the school system provided buses and drivers to transport approximately 73 inmates to seven different facilities throughout the state, the result of a notice by the Fire Marshal that major electrical problems posed a hazard to the inmates at the jail.
Megan Buell of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance said that the inspection was made after two inmates were shocked by electrical problems in the aging jail.
The inspection of the jail by the Fire Marshal determined that exposed electrical wiring and natural gas lines put the inmates at risk. Several renovations were immediately implemented while others are projected to take up to two weeks – the deadline set by the Fire Marshal for completion of all improvements.
Sheriff Brent Myers and County Mayor Lonnie Cleek received a letter from the Fire Marshal detailing improvements. Included are faulty exit lights in the cells, fixtures in the showers and cells not covered, exposed junction boxes throughout the facility without cover plates, lack of switch plates throughout the facility, excess voltage on green wires in the showers, exposed conductors throughout the facility, and electrical plugs without covers.
Cleek said that since contractors need access to the building and power needs to be cut off to make the repairs, the inmates were temporaily moved out.
It will cost the county $35-$85 per day to house prisoners at other facilities, Williamson County being the only jail to waive the housing costs. Added expenses will be incurred as Grundy County deputies transport prisoners from their new location back to Grundy County for court dates, meetings with lawyers, and doctor’s visits.
The temporary shutdown does not address all of the concerns of Grundy County residents. Overcrowding, hygiene, and other safety concerns are not the focus of current renovations.
Transport of inmates continued throughout the day on Thursday, with all prisoners out of the jail by late afternoon. No details are available to the consequences if the July 24 deadline passes without the repairs completed. However, there is speculation the jail will be permanently closed.