JTF prepares for study

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Members of the Carter County Jail Task Force, who decided last month to investigate having a needs assessment study performed on the facility, said yesterday evening they will interview a firm that responded to their request for proposals.
   "We put out a letter to seven different firms that specialize not only in correctional facilities but also in assessing the needs of a community," said County Executive Dale Fair, adding that five of those companies returned proposals.
   Members of the task force met to discuss the proposals and what they feel the merits and flaws of each proposal are. A needs assessment will hopefully help the county determine how to deal with the overcrowding situation at the jail.
   "You're under a gun. You've got a jail with a 91 (inmate) certification and a 217 average," said task force member and Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Bradley N. Johnson.
   If the overcrowding situation at the jail is not remedied, state and federal authorities could decertify the facility, forcing the county to have inmates housed elsewhere and federally mandating the need for a new facility, especially in the event that someone is injured in the current facility or a disaster occurs.
   "The good part of it is that if you are trying to do something and a bad situation happens, they (state and federal authorities) will try to work with you," Carter County Sheriff John Henson said.
   The task force agreed without dissent that the proposal submitted by a firm named Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, Inc., (BWSC) which has a local office in Blountville, was by far the best proposal submitted.
   "I didn't really have a question on which of these was best," said County Finance Director Jason Cody.
   Fair advised members of the task force they could also select a second firm to interview. "Do you feel confident enough with this to say that you can come to a deal with this company?" he asked members, many of whom stated that they were confident about the decision.
   "This company has built a lot of correctional facilities in the Tri-Cities region, and I am confident in them," Henson said.
   Fair said that, once the interview process is over, if the committee decides to use BWSC, they will be required to take the recommendation to the County Commission for final approval to hire the firm. BWSC quoted a price range from $5,000-25,000 in their proposal to the task force.
   If BWSC performs the needs assessment, the company will research the current facility, compare it to the population and growth rate of the county, and recommend the best coarse of action to take in order to solve the overcrowding problem.
   Fair and Henson both expressed a hope that the county will look not only at current needs but also plan for the future.