By Gary Nelson / Chronicle staffwriter
Several county commissioners heard an update last week regarding the possibility of an expansion to the Cumberland County Jail.
Cumberland County Commissioners met jointly to continue talks of expansion at the Justice Center after they requested a free study from County Technical Advisory Services (CTAS).
Terry Hazard with CTAS gave an oral report and said the current jail, which was state of the art when built in 1991, is still in excellent shape. Citing the original paint still intact, Hazard said the sheriff and his staff should be commended for the jail’s upkeep and condition.
"We go into a lot of county jails and I have to say this is one of the most impressive we've been in. Instead of being built in 1991, it looks like a jail that's only about 5 years old. It really has been well maintained," Terry Hazard of CTAS said.
The CTAS study, which included monitoring population growth and crime rate increases over a 20-year period, concluded that increasing the bed count to 222 would be sufficient.
"I can't guarantee that 222 would last for 15 years, but I feel it would be good for the community and really close ... You all are living right here because by all counts it looks like it's going to work," Hazard said.
Hazard also encouraged commissioners to look at a separate work-release minimum security facility that Sheriff Butch Burgess suggested in the future.
"If you start to get crowded again, this would be a good, inexpensive option to consider," Hazard said.
Hazard pointed out to commissioners that while Cumberland County is seeing tremendous growth, much of that growth is in the retiree population, who "generally aren’t the people committing crimes."
Putnam County commissioner and advisor with CTAS, Bill Rodgers, also attended the meeting to discuss expansion at the Justice Center. In his 28 years as a county commissioner, Rodgers said the best decision he made was to create Putnam County’s Criminal Justice Center.
The Putnam County Justice Center houses both the jail and court related offices. Rodgers said having the jail and courtrooms in the same facility saves thousands of man hours in a year’s time and reduces the chances of an emergency incident such as the recent shooting at the Roane County Courthouse.
Some Cumberland County commissioners requested at their last jail meeting to see plans that would include moving all courtrooms and affiliated offices to the Justice Center.
Plans for a new building near the Justice Center developed by Kim Chamberlin of Upland Design Group include a 45,000 square-foot facility including offices for Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Chancery Court Clerk, Circuit Court Clerk, four new courtrooms, a detainee holding area, six attorney client rooms, public defender's meeting and conference rooms, four jury deliberation suites, general sessions judge offices and circuit judges offices, court reporters, judicial commissioners and various service areas and storage.
"All this sounds fine and everything, but how much are we looking at having to spend to do this. I mean, what's it going to cost?" 6th District Commissioner Ralph Jenkins asked.
Steve Hewlett of Hewlett-Spencer, the firm hired to oversee the jail expansion project, said adding the pod addition to the jail would cost a guaranteed maximum of $6 million.
Adding the new office and court facility would cost and additional $6 million not including site work. Building the new office facility would require removing the old Cumberland County School building and that site work was not included in the cost estimate.
In all to add the new facility and build the jailhouse expansion pod, Hewlett estimated a cost of approximately $12 million plus the site work.
Commissioners on the budget, building and grounds and emergency services committees will now review the study offered by CTAS and information from Spencer-Hewlett and make any recommendations in a future joint meeting.