Old Hospital Site chosen for new Justice Center

Old Rhea Medical Center Hospital (ElmerHarris/RheaReview)

In a 6-3 vote, county commissioners resolved to choose the old hospital site (7794 Rhea County Hwy) as the location for the county’s new jail / justice center.  The site is located on a 10.5 acre tract which provides the most room for future expansions – a deciding factor for some.

“We need to look to the future,” stated Commissioner Harold Fisher.  “The best site is the old hospital because you can expand it for future growth.”

Others stated a recommendation from Bob Bass, a Senior Inspector with the Tennessee Corrections Institute, who reportedly believes the site is by far the best choice.

Opponents say a new justice center will cost more than the county can bear.

“This county can’t afford to be 100 million dollars in debt,” said Commissioner Bill Davault who notes the interest could end up adding two-thirds on top of already high estimates.

Other commissioners argued that recent estimates are way off the mark.

“The previous figures were estimates.  When you get down to bids, it’ll be more competitive,” stated Commissioner Bill Hollin.

The site was projected to cost over $28 million, the most expensive of the three proposed locations.

Talks are ongoing with the state to use the Nursing Home portion of the old hospital to house up to 96 minimum security inmates while construction is underway on the rest of the facility.

It’s a hope the solution could resolve the county’s current jail overcrowding problems and save over $1.3 million dollars per year in housing and transporting inmates in other counties.

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