Does Pickett County have to build a jail?
AMANDA HILL BOND
The topic of discussion has been heating up as to why Pickett County needs to build a jail. With all of the information that has been given, the PRESS wanted to find out what the state's position was in regards to the jail situation.
In 2015, the state Fire Marshal's office conducted an inspection of the jail, that was built in 1935, and found it did not have the
required fire alarm system, lack of exits, improper gas appliances, obstructed egress.
A Plan of Corrective Action by the county that was to be approved by the Fire Marshal’s Office by January 5th, 2016 or there would be the possibility of the state taking action.
The POCA was as follows:
1. The jail would not house more than six inmates, any additional
inmate would be housed in other counties.
2. A feasibility study for a new jail would be completed and a plan
to build a new jail in place within 190 days.
3. Current jail would be on "fire watch" with sheriff office
personnel conducting checks every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day and keep a log of all fire watch activities.
That POCA was submitted in January 2016 and was approved by the state. In that letter, it indicated that the Pickett County
Government realizes that a failure to follow this plan will result in
the Fire Marshal's Office closing the jail.
The Pickett County Corrective Partnership was created to address all aspects for a new jail. During the first meeting in January, Bob Bass from the Tennessee Correction Institute explained the situation for needing a jail and offered guidance and options for what routes could be followed. He stated during that meeting, that he felt like if the county did what the Fire Marshal was requiring and complied, they would not shut anything down at that time.
A feasibility study was completed by CTAS at no cost to the county. That study suggested housing consideration for the new jail plan for 36 male bed, and 18 female beds, a total of 54.
There were site feasibility studies done for several potential areas that were recommended by the Pickett County Corrective Partnership for a jail/justice center location. The plan was to use the community center as the site which was going to be saving the county money by using an existing structure. However, the cost of relocating the current offices and area for the community center were going to be substantial. The Pickett County Corrective Partnership committee suggested a new site be recommended for the jail and presented it to the county commission on March 20. That motion failed.
There was a special called meeting April 6th on the facts concerning the jail and why Pickett County has to build a jail. Before that meeting date, a letter dated April 3rd, 2017 was sent to Pickett County Executive Richard Daniel stating if the approved POCA was not implemented or adhered to, the department may take action. This action may result in the department seeing an order of remedy or removal. That included an order to evacuate the building until the deficiencies are remedied at the existing facility or a new jail is constructed. These actions are the same as what could have occurred when the mandates were placed on the jail and it was required that Pickett County submit a POCA.
A motion was approved to change the location of the proposed jail site from the Byrdstown Community Center to property on West Main Street. The current building of the courthouse is not ADA compliant and the state has serious concerns for the safety of the inmates and jail employees. So what exactly would that mean if the state issued an order to evacuate the building as indicated in the letter? Pickett County Executive Richard Daniel, and county commission chairman, stated in the special called meeting that the evacuation would include the "whole building or courthouse.” That would mean the county offices that are within the building would be included in that evacuation.
This newspaper has requested a clarification of what exactly was
meant by the wording in the letter of "evacuation of the building"
from Tennessee Department of Commerce's Communication Director Kevin Walters. "The jail is the only structure at issue. The second floor will need to be vacated while the building's deficiencies affecting the health and safety of the building's occupants are addressed. The first floor should be unaffected," said Walters.
It was also revealed in the special called meeting, that the Pickett
County Sheriff's Office had over 200 warrants that hadn't been
served, and there are currently no beds in the state for females and it would be close to Memphis to send a male prisoner.
According to County Executive Richard Daniel, a jail could be built
and maintained without increasing taxes, and there are several loan and lease options available. There are still a lot of questions that are unknown regarding the cost of a jail/justice center for Pickett County. But the state has shown the willingness to cooperate with county officials throughout the process and would be available if requested at meetings but haven't been at this time.
A copy of the full CTAS Feasibility study along with each site
feasibility study can be found on pickettcountypress.com.
--$140,000 yearly cost for fire watch
--$129,153 PCSO Housing Budget 2016-17
--$120,452.30 paid for housing YTD
--$35,000 PCSO Medical Budget 2016-17
--$81,658.14 paid for medical YTD
--$35-$50 cost per day for outside inmate housing
CTAS reported that the cost estimate to do the fire watch is $140,000 a year.
The budget for the sheriff's office housing was originally
$100,000.00 and amended to $129,153, so far for the fiscal year to date of April 7th, the amount spent is $120,452.30 with several more months left. The medical budget was $35,000 for fiscal year 2016/17, as of April 7th, a total of $81,658.14 has been spent.
The estimated cost to house inmate per day is $35-$50, but doesn't include any medical expenses, or other expenses associated with housing prisoners in other counties.