The initial step to address overcrowding at the Loudon County Justice Center is nearly complete, as the agency hired to conduct a feasibility study expects to finalize its assessment by the end of October or early November.
"Actually, we're in the process of completing the study phase right now," Todd Davis, with Moseley Architects, the firm hired to conduct the study, said. "We finished evaluating the jail needs and are in the process of completing all of the courts because it's a lot of data assessment and analysis that goes on to do that, so that's kind of where we are right now."
Davis said his firm plans to meet with the Loudon County Corrections Partnership within the next couple weeks to hammer out additional development options. Moseley, which has offices in North Carolina and Virginia, has been working on the study in partnership with Knoxville-based Hodge Associates.
As part of its initial report to Loudon County Sheriff's Office, Moseley recommended a jail facility consisting of 85,756 square feet with about 280 inmate beds to be constructed to meet immediate needs with a capacity of 400 beds. The report indicated that an additional 21,294 square feet of space would be required for other offices, including court services, patrol, records and criminal investigations.
The jail has seen an average inmate population increase of 10.2 percent since 2010, which is "slightly higher" than residential population growth. More than 3,100 inmates were admitted to the jail in each year since 2010, and 3,208 have been processed through July of this year, according to the report.
"One of the things with Loudon County is it's grown so rapidly," Davis said. "It's the seventh fastest growing county in the state, which is not a bad thing for Loudon County that it's grown. When you're trying to keep up with the needs, whenever there's county growth there's typically inmate growth and court needs grow as well."
Sheriff Tim Guider said Moseley's initial report did not come with preliminary drawings, just estimates on anticipated spacing needs. He said the county would more than likely have to construct a new facility rather than renovate the current jail.
"There's just not enough land here to expand to what they're going to be it looks like they're recommending," Guider said. "I'm sure there's going to be some areas we can cut here and there."
Jail Administrator Teresa Smith said the jail had 131 inmates as of Thursday, which represents a drop of about 20 people in the last week. Transfers and criminal court rulings have contributed to the recent decline. The jail has consistently been running at more than 50 inmates above its certification limit.
Smith said the report's recommendations were in line with changes in inmate population she has seen at the facility.
"I think those numbers are pretty close to the growth I've seen through the years," she said.
The jail's last inspection took place in early September, and the facility passed in all areas except population. The center is still certified through the Tennessee Corrections Institute.
"We are certified because we are meeting the plan of action requirements with the feasibility study and the monthly reporting; we passed all other criteria to be certified," Smith said, noting the jail got a favorable review in sanitation, reporting, inmate rights and other areas.
"We passed every single one of those," Smith said. "We had no infractions except for the overcrowding."
The state plans to review the county's plan of action regarding the jail on Dec. 4 in Nashville.
Smith said the county has assurances the facility will remain certified.
The feasibility study, which began earlier this year, cost the county $27,500. The report was slated to be completed within 120 days.
Davis said concrete construction options would depend on the amount of property available to house a facility.
"It's probably going to come down to what's available if it's a cost effective thing to try to expand based on available property surrounding (the jail), but that's still in the analysis stage right now," he said. "You've got to identify the elephant before you can find a place to put it."