Grant Tharp of the chosen architectural firm gave the committee five options and preliminary figures.
Option 1: A 13,854-square-foot facility housing 128 inmates. Cost: $2,157,740.
Option 2: A 9,188 square-foot facility housing 64 inmates. Cost: $1,767,380.
Option 3: Addition of 3,222 square feet of probation offices to either option: Cost: $488,750.
Option 4: Addition of rental/food area to either option: Cost: $159,700.
Option 5: Option 3 and 4 connected to the current Justice Center structure. Cost: $636,900.
All of those costs are estimates of a building which would be a “butler style” facility of metal with the base structure housing 64 inmates designed in a way where the addition could be added on at a later date.
County Mayor D. Gary Davis said there had been five responses to the advertising for proposals on the project.
“This was the architect with the most experience in building dormitory-type facilities,” Davis said.
He said Cope recently assisted with a similar project in McMinn County as well as the one located in Anderson County which the committee has toured.
The proposed calendar would have the project formally approved by the County Commission on Aug. 20 with completion by next spring.
All agreed the project would remove probationers from the downtown area and relieve parking traffic as well as give the probation office a more centralized and efficient location near the Justice Center.
Davis said the Justice Center was done with optional choices, but the decision was made to do them all.
Commissioner Ed Elkins said Sheriff-elect Eric Watson had raised concerns to him about the parking “and other concerns.”
Watson was not able to attend Thursday’s meeting due to illness.
“This is something we have to address, and I think he needs to participate before we make a decision going forward,” Elkins said.
He also said the timeline would start early in this fiscal year.
“We have nothing in the budget to cover that and the borrowing of the money,” Elkins said. “That’s something Mayor Davis and finance have got to look at and consider.”
He added he understood the desire to get started and completed, “but it seems to me we would want to do the timing of this so that the beginning of the project would kick off in the next fiscal year.”
Davis said the timing is important.
“Ideally, it would be timed to be finished to coincide [with the fiscal year] because until it’s finished, these revenue streams that everybody feels like will come in are not going to start,” he said.
Davis said there is no money in the budget for the debt, “and there won’t be next year.”
“The timing can’t be for that first bond payment in this year because there’s no money to pay it in this year. There’s no extra tax money to put there,” he said.
Davis said it would take the additional revenue to fund the project — from rental, increased fines, fines collected when they are placed in work release — and “none of those are going to start coming in until it’s open.”
“You have to time it where that first bond payment isn’t due till then,” he said. “That first real bond payment — interest plus principal — will be due a year from the time we do the bond. If we did it tomorrow, one year from then that thing has to be built and revenue coming in to pay that bond payment.”
“It’s got to bring in the revenue,” Davis said.
Rich Kienlen, director of probations, returned to the question concerning the new sheriff’s participation in the project.
“He said [to me] either he runs it all or he doesn’t want anything to do with it,” Kienlen said.
Elkins said before there can be a commitment to anything, “there has to be a meeting of the minds between the new sheriff, this workhouse committee and the County Commission.”
“It’s absolutely dependent upon a cooperative effort,” Elkins said.
Tenth District Attorney General Steve Crump agreed with that sentiment.
“It sounds like to me there are some very fundamental questions for this committee you have not answered,” Crump said. “Who is going to run it. What you are going to build. How you are going to staff it.”
He said in his opinion those questions need to be answered before much is else determined.
Kienlen said he would arrange a meeting with Crump and Watson to have those discussions and possibly schedule another committee meeting on Aug. 7.