Warren County has narrowed the field of seven architectural firms to two for its jail expansion project.
Members of the county Corrections Partnership Committee selected Upland Design Group out of Crossville and Cope Architecture out of Knoxville as the two finalists.
Commissioners Morris Bond, chair, Carl D. Bouldin, Linda Jones, Kenny Roberts and Scott Rubley met Tuesday to review proposals submitted after the county went out for bids on architectural services.
Members looked for those with a strong background in jail construction and/or renovation, as well as the company’s proximity to Warren County.
Upland has worked with Taft Youth Development Center in Pikeville, Campbell County Justice Center in Jacksboro, Cumberland County Justice Center in Crossville, Fentress County Justice Center and is currently over Van Buren County Administrative Building construction that will include a jail.
Cope has worked with Lincoln County Justice Center, Anderson County Minimum Security Dormitory, McMinn County Justice Center, and Union County Justice Center.
Warren County is being encouraged by the state to correct the overcrowding issue at its jail.
“I saw on the news, I pay attention to this stuff now when I didn’t used to, that there are two to three jails in the state where they have cut them off of taking inmates,” said Bouldin. “The state shut them down to where they can’t receive any more inmates because of their overcrowding and they aren’t fixing their problem.”
Jones asked Sheriff Jackie Matheny what the crime is for the majority of inmates.
“I would say the majority are drug related,” said Matheny. “It’s not necessary drug cases but certainly with addiction, they are doing break-ins. I would say 85 percent or so are drug-related crimes.”
When asked what he looked for in the renovation, Matheny said two-man cells.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has encouraged me to go with as many two-man cells as we can possibly have. That way, if we do have problems we can isolate trouble way better than we can by putting them in a big area. The more inmates you put together, the more is going to happen. That’s just a fact.”
The expansion will not have an area for juveniles.
“It cost too much money to do that and we don’t have the space,” said County Executive Herschel Wells. “You have to have a lot of space because they have to be kept separate.”
Bouldin encouraged more communication with judges.
“I know we are going to have to do this but we seriously need to work with judges and the violation of probation and people coming to jail for $50 and costing us $70,000 because of their health care bills and stuff,” said Bouldin. “That needs to be part of the solution to overcrowding and not just building more rooms for them. I’m not sure how we fix that, but I do think it’s something we need to work on.”
Also submitting proposals were Allen & Hoshall of Memphis, Spirit Architecture of Collierville, OLG of Tullahoma, HFR of Brentwood, and MBI of Kansas.
Upland and Cope will be contacted for a meeting to continue the review process.