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Sergeant Jake Miller walks the corridor inside the Rhea County Jail in Dayton, TN, in this file photo.

DAYTON, Tenn. - Rhea County's jail is the first in Tennessee to be recertified under a new initiative to help counties struggling to meet state corrections standards, county commissioners were told this week.

Tennessee Corrections Institute Director Beth Ashe on Tuesday presented Sheriff Mike Neal with a certificate showing the jail has been certified under provisions of the new Community Corrections Program, which takes into account a community's efforts to meet state criteria.

Ashe recounted a history of the jail's problems, beginning with a September 2010 inspection that found it overcrowded and guilty of sanitation and other violations. Reinspections continued to show overcrowding until the corrections institute's board decertified the jail in June 2011.

She acknowledged the county's efforts to plan a new facility and to document the steps taken to do so.

"This is a wonderful example of how we can all work together to achieve a goal," Ashe said.

Commissioners took no action on the jail Tuesday, but said efforts continue to meet state criteria.

In other matters, County Clerk Linda Shaver formally notified the commission that the assessor of property office is vacant since Julene Morgan died in March.

County Attorney Carol Barron said that since the first meeting of the commission after Morgan's death fell within 120 days of a general election, and since two qualified candidates are running in that election, the commission needed to take no action to fill the vacancy.

Commissioners also voted to borrow $1 million for an artificial surface and new track for the Rhea County High School football field, and to build an athletics multipurpose building. They also agreed to borrow $250,000 for improvements to county volunteer fire departments.

County Executive George Thacker asked commissioners to consider lobbying state legislators to change Tennessee law on distribution of TVA impact funds.

He said Rhea County the funds will end with completion of Watts Bar Nuclear Plant's Unit Two.

In other TVA-served states, he said, the host counties receive double the amount allocated during construction. That could mean up to $1 million per year for Rhea County if the law were changed, Thacker said.

Tom Davis is based in Dayton. Contact him at