IF YOU GO
The Grundy County Commission will meet for a workshop Monday at 6 p.m. CST at the Grundy County Courthouse in Altamont, Tenn. That meeting will be followed by a called meeting at 7 p.m. CST to accept a bid on a needs assessment and feasibility study of the county jail.
Grundy County Commission Chairman Ralph Rieben has resigned because his solution for the county's aging jail is at odds with that of other commissioners, and he sees that as a path to financial problems.
Rieben said Wednesday he would not elaborate on his letter.
Rieben, a licensed engineer, states in the letter filed Monday that a fire inspection at the jail last fall led him to spend "considerable time and effort" collecting information on design, construction and financing for a new facility. When bond interest rates in October "were historically low with the trend being upward," Rieben said, he felt the commission should "act quickly."
Rieben submitted a package to commissioners containing several resolutions that were rejected twice, he stated.
Commission Vice Chairman Earl Geary Jr., who assumes the chairmanship for now, said the resignation "was a surprise, but then I wasn't surprised."
"Ralph made proposals that he worked hard putting together," Geary said. "But it was something that the rest of the commission did not agree with."
Rieben said he is skeptical that the jail project and work at two county schools can be done without a property tax increase.
"My input has generally been viewed as an obstruction to the current bureaucratic process," he states in the letter. "[I]t appears that it would be in the best interest of everyone if I just step aside."
He said he is leaving his post with the county "in excellent financial condition, and I choose not to participate in its financial decline."
The commission meets Monday for a called session to accept a bid on a needs assessment and feasibility study of the jail, officials said.
Grundy officials are grappling with fire code and structural problems at the county jail and two elementary schools. The jail created some controversy as commissioners debated funding, while officials say the school projects are more long term, though just as important.
Grundy officials studied a new jail in 2007, before the economic downturn. Sheriff Brent Myers said then that the 1973-era jail was built to hold 23 inmates and regularly had twice that many.
The jail has not been certified by the state since the mid-1990s. An inspection June 17 listed many health and safety problems, Tennessee Corrections Institute records show. A Sept. 7 fire inspection found 25 violations that required immediate corrective action, 21 violations the county must fix within 120 days and six to correct within a year, according to a deputy Tennessee fire marshal's report.
The county is spending more than $80,000 to make repairs to the most critical problems while an overall solution is studied, officials said.
The commission will hold its next regular meeting in February, when commissioners and residents can nominate candidates for appointment to Rieben's seat. Officials said the commission's appointee will hold the seat until the next county general election in August.