JASPER, Tenn. -- Marion County leaders have hired a private company to clean and maintain the Marion County Justice Center.
County Mayor John Graham said the janitor who cleaned the Justice Center after hours for many years "abruptly" retired last month.
"I took it upon myself that we had to have someone over there that could take care of it until [the board] had a chance to decide what to do," Graham said. "It's too large of a building not to have somebody over there."
Graham said Clean Sweep Janitorial Services in Chattanooga was the only bidder for the work and began cleaning the building, which houses the jail, court space and offices, "knowing that they didn't have a contract with the county."
The Marion County Commission recently voted unanimously to award the cleaning company a one-year contract for $2,500 per month to maintain the Justice Center.
The previous employee who had cleaned the Justice Center made almost $3,000 more last year than the cost of the new contract, Graham said.
Officials with Clean Sweep said the building is fairly new, and they want to make sure it's something of which the county can be proud.
Commissioner Tommy Thompson said Sequatchie County uses inmates to clean its justice center as a way to save that money.
"Why are we not able to do that?" he said. "I don't have much sympathy for prisoners."
Commissioner Gene Hargis, also an investigator with the Marion County Sheriff's Department, said the cost of having an inmate escape an unsecured area of the Justice Center certainly would make up the difference in cleaning costs.
"Sometimes it's hard to find someone out of 80 people trustworthy enough to have a broom because they'll make a meth lab out of it," Hargis said, jokingly. "That's bad, but that's about the way it is."
"Inmates do all the cleaning in the secure areas [at the justice center]," Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said. "You could put them out there [in unsecured areas], but then we're going to have to hire somebody to watch them."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.