Plans to expand the overcrowded Tipton County Jail are moving forward.
Tipton County Chief Deputy Billy Daugherty presented a plan of action at Monday's Tipton County Legislature meeting.
Additions include two male segregation units that can house 44 inmates, a female dorm unit that can hold 28 inmates plus four isolation cells and an expanded medical facility.
There will also be a new records room, uniform and property storage area and modifications made to the kitchen, court holding cells and the intake area.
The additions will increase the facility's square footage almost 50 percent from 24,743 square feet to 36,292.
Daugherty said the plan is to begin construction early next year and hopefully be finished by December 2014 or the spring of 2015.
There have been approximately 87,000 bookings since the jail opened in 1997. Since 2005, the average jail population has been over the maximum occupancy of 122.
During November the average daily population was 166, with a high of 185. For 2013 the average population is 155. When expansion is complete, the jail will be able to hold approximately 200 inmates.
The jail was inspected by the Tennessee Corrections Institute last August and deemed to be operating at 140 percent of certified capacity.
Daugherty said taxpayers typically aren't excited about footing the bill for jail expansion. But because of overcrowding, it's absolutely necessary.
“We don't have a choice,” Daugherty said. “The TCI says we have to expand to remain certified.” Jails that aren't certified by the TCI can face federal and/or state sanctions and are more susceptible to law suits.
“The jail is an essential component for a county,” Daugherty said. “For most people, it's out of sight out of mind. The average house size is between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet. In about 24,000 square feet here we've got the people who can't behave. Then you have overcrowding. It's a challenge.” The ball got rolling for expansion in 2011 when the Tipton County Jail Committee, consisting of county commissioners and other officials, was formed.
A year later the county joined forces with TCI to form the County Corrections Partnership Initiative.
From there the plan of action was developed and the county transferred $4 million from the debt service account to fund the project.
Lakeland, Tenn.-based architecture firm A2H was hired and worked with Daugherty to draw up the blueprints, which have been approved by the fire marshal.
Minor revisions are currently being made to the blueprints.
Bid packages are scheduled to be sent out in January and February.
“It's been a long road making preparations,” Daugherty said. “It's going to be challenging expanding a facility that's in operation. The jail will likely go on lockdown when construction begins.”
The jail has been consistently overcrowded for nearly a decade.
Daugherty pointed to the efforts of several county officials, primarily Sheriff Pancho Chumley, as being the reason for making expansion a reality.
“It's basically happened because of the sheriff's persistence in bringing this to the attention of the commissioners,” Daugherty said. “Because of that they were able make sound decisions.” Part of Daugherty's presentation to the commissioners Monday night included a copy of the inspection by TCI, which commended the jail for its operation.
“I've never seen one with as many compliments,” Daugherty said. “They even took samples of our paper work to show other jails.” A report submitted by William Wall of TCI said, in part, “The sheriff, chief deputy and staff are doing an outstanding job and should be commended for their dedication and professionalism. The strive for excellence is noticeable in all areas of the Tipton County Sheriff's Office.” The Tipton County Jail has a staff of 35, which will remain the same after expansion, and operates on an annual budget of $2.6 million.