County commission talks of jail expansion

Kayla Fleming, For The Times Anthony Hood


The Macon County Commission heard from architects Grant Tharp and John Cheney of Cope Engineering on Monday evening regarding the expansion of the Macon County Justice Center.

Tharp showed the commission the current site plan for the justice center, which includes a sheriff’s administration section, additions to the court, and several additions to the jail area, including work-release areas, medical areas, and additions to the detention pods which house the inmates.

Sheriff Mark Gammon’s emphasized the importance of having the work release section of the jail, saying that it gives inmates the opportunity to get their high-school equivalency diplomas and begin working for local businesses.

“They get a check … then they can pay their fines,” Gammons said. “When they get out, they’ll have money saved. They’ll have their fines paid, and they’ll have a job.”

Gammon’s told the commission that the programs would help to reduce repeat offenders.

Gammon’s also added that the county “will also be getting paid money from these people’s fines, because it will automatically be deducted from their checks.”

Tharp told the commission that an estimated time frame for the project would be approximately three years.

“It takes a year to get it through the state,” Tharp said, detailing the multiple departments the design would have to be approved by, including the fire marshal and department of corrections. Once the design is approved and bids have been accepted, Tharp estimated that the actual construction will take two years.

“It’s very unlikely that the project could bid in 2020,” Tharp said.

He told the commission that, based on trends in construction markets, he estimated the project costing more than $21 million if bid in 2021.

“Money is in there for contingency and what we call soft cost, things that are part of the project, but not what would be included in construction cost,” Tharp said.

The addition would bring the total amount of inmates in the jail to 225.

“The building and the (additional) staffing will be almost completely covered under the state inmates,” Gammon’s told the commission.

He added that, in addition to state inmates, it could potentially be possible to house inmates from other counties, in which Macon County would be paid for.

The commission will vote on permitting Macon County Mayor Steve Jones to begin paperwork to received United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) assistance, as well as to allow Cope Engineering to begin drawing up specs for the project and bidding out elements to get exact costs.

The commission also discussed bids received to go toward new equipment for the solid waste department. Jones informed the commission that there were many pieces of equipment that were more than 20 years old.

“It’s a safety thing,” Jones said.

Among equipment needed was a roll off truck and hoist, 40-yard containers for transporting waste and recycling, and a skid-steer. The commission voted to rebid the skid-steer as it had only been bid out to Bobcat rather than multiple brands.

Jones also informed the commission that taxes received, which will go toward the new elementary school, amounted to $741,319 over nine months.

Director of Schools Tony Boles stated that he had received an updated number for ten months of taxes at $819,472. He added that the numbers were two months behind, and thus, it would be February before the amount raised for a full year will be available.