Rhea County leaders vote to buy mayor's land for jail

photo An old sign advertising 8.5 acres for sale remains on the gated Louallen property that the Rhea County Commission voted 6-2 to buy for a jail or justice center. Photo by Kimberly McMillian

DAYTON, Tenn. - After a spirited public discussion, Rhea County Commission members Tuesday night approved the $350,000 purchase of land owned by Dayton's mayor as the site for a new jail or justice center.

Commissioners voted 6-2 to buy the 7.4 acres owned by Gary Louallen on Manufacturers Road off U.S. Highway 27. Commissioners Bill Hollin and Doyle Montgomery, who previously had "passed" on voting, decided to vote "yes" after County Clerk Linda Shaver asked them if they wanted to reconsider.

Grover Parks and Ron Masterson voted against the purchase, while fellow Commissioner Emmaly Fisher was absent from the meeting.

In May, Commissioner Tom Smith had offered a motion to purchase the property with county litigation taxes. Fisher had countered that motion with one for a site at West Second Avenue that is owned by former Dayton Mayor Bob Vincent. Hollin had moved to table the Louallen property vote until comments could be heard at a public hearing.


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On Tuesday night commissioners reconsidered the tabled vote.

Commissioner Ronnie Raper made an impassioned plea to the nearly 60 people in attendance that he had "fought to see it [the jail] stay in downtown."

At least seven people expressed their frustration at the hearing before the vote.

New resident Roger Bentley criticized the commission for what he called its pending misuse of taxpayers' dollars.

"It's frustrating," he said. "I'm tired of seeing my taxpayer money wasted."

Longtime resident John Sprankell also expressed his disregard for the vote.

"Rhea County is no place for political vice," he said.

Attendee Ruth Crane, though, said the chosen property was an "ideal place" for the new jail or justice center.

As many as 12 sites originally were under consideration for the new facility, Smith said in May. Since a June 2011 analysis of six feasible sites, the properties were narrowed to Louallen's earlier this year.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bellsouth.net.