Rhea County leaders reject neighborhood as jail site

Rhea County leaders reject neighborhood as jail site

April 17th, 2013 by Tom Davis in Local Regional News

George Thacker

Commission Chairman Jim Reed

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

DAYTON, Tenn. - Rhea County commissioners late Tuesday delayed until May a decision on purchasing property for a new detention facility, but indicated a site in a residential neighborhood would not be approved.

In March, Commissioner Ron Masterson had suggested property next to the Richland Park Shopping Center would be available, but tabled his suggestion when a neighbor objected. At the same time, Commission Vice Chairman Emmaly Fisher requested a public hearing, which was held Tuesday.

During that hearing nine residents who live near the site objected. Citing fears of increased traffic, declining property values and safety for children and widows, they urged commissioners to reject the site.

Michael McPherson said he lives a half block from the proposed site.

"I can't understand the logic of anybody who says put a jail in a residential area," he said. "If you want it in a residential area, please put it in yours; I don't want it in mine."

As the hearing ended, County Executive George Thacker said the neighbors "have spoken. I'll do everything in my power to keep it [the jail] from going to the Welch property. They don't need to go through another night worrying about it."

But Commission Chairman Jim Reed announced that a vote on the property had not been placed on the meeting's agenda, and one of the eight commissioners present had refused to sign a waiver to allow the matter to come to a vote. He did not disclose which commissioner took that position.

He did ask that the question, along with an item to purchase property on Manufacturer's Road, be included on the May agenda.

In other matters, Director of Schools Jerry Levengood told commissioners the school board and administration have been working on their budget for the 2013-14 year and are including more personnel required to staff the new high school.

"With budget cuts on the federal level, we're looking at a shortfall of about $1,440,000," he said. "We do plan to make cuts from that. Also, we have worked very diligently to have a fund balance. We do not plan to need any money from the county commission [to cover the shortfall]. We can cover the shortfall with fund balance and still maintain a surplus."