By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

With the need for an expanded jail at the top of their minds, the Wilson County Budget Committee passed a measure to pay $750,000 to Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris architects in Mt. Juliet to design the expansion.

The $750,000 will be paid in seven months and will give the architects the chance to begin design of the expanded jail. The $750,000 will probably not cover the entire design costs, but will allow the design team to get started, according to Sheriff Robert Bryan.

The county won’t know the exact cost of the facility and design fees until it’s bid. That will take place in early 2019. The $750,000 will come out of the county’s capital projects fund and can be replaced when the county takes out the loan to build the jail, according to county finance director Aaron Maynard.

Currently, the capital project fund has about $4 million in it, he said.

The project will take about two years and will likely be a two-story design with pods on top of each other, Bryan said.

Included in the pods will be a kitchen, booking room and medical area. It will also house 400 beds, designed to help with the overflow of the current facility. Currently, there are 520 inmates and 460 beds. The County Technical Advisory Service recommended more than 360 beds for the addition, Bryan said.

Maintenance of staff in the new section will also be programmed into future budget costs. The number of additional staff members needed will be determined by the design of the new pods, Bryan said.

“Stacking the pods would be the most efficient way to minimize manpower,” Bryan said. “Manpower is a reoccurring cost that has to be dealt with.”

The county doesn’t take prisoners from or send them to another county but must house those convicted of a felony, which would otherwise be housed in state facilities. If there is no room in a state facility, the inmates remain at the Wilson County Jail.

There are about 100 state inmates in the jail at any one time, Bryan said.

“We’ve been in overcrowding positions before, and it’s not good,” Bryan said. “And, [the increasing number of inmates] is not going away. We want to do this now, so we don’t have to come back and ask for more.”

Bryan said although the design is not made, “it will not affect other parking lot where Goodyear and the houses are right now.“

The measure will have to go before the law enforcement and public works committees Dec. 17 before the Wilson County County Commission meeting. It will then need to be approved by the full commission the same night.

In addition to the architect fees, the Budget Committee also approved a contract to buy the Highland Heights Church of Christ for $3.35 million to be paid in three installments. The property is 6.16 acres.

If the land is not used by the jail expansion, the courts could be aligned in one facility on the land at a later date, Maynard said.

The money would be taken from the county’s capital project fund, and the fund would be reimbursed when the county takes the loan out for the jail.