MBI's proposed design for the jail expansion project
August 30, 2021 (BY: Micca Terrell)
The Cheatham County Commission is moving forward on plans to renovate and expand the jail facilities in downtown Ashland City.
During the regularly scheduled session August 16, commissioners voted 7-5 to approve the architectural firm MBI’s design for the construction project of approximately 50,000 to 57,000 square feet in the area of Frey Street, Court Street, and Sycamore Street.
The estimated cost is $36 million. The current cost does not include any tax hikes for citizens, and the project is needed to help deal with more crime and keeping the public safe, said Sheriff Mike Breedlove.
“We’re facing some serious needs with overcrowding. Crime is increasing. We’re at the point we’ve got to do something. The county is growing, and we need to continue on the process to build this. The funding is there without a tax increase,” Breedlove said.
The project includes approximately 200 new beds with the expectation of keeping as many of the current 116-certified beds available at the completion of the project. The current jail was built in 1985 and has a maximum capacity of 116 inmates, but at any given time holds more than that. Crowded jail cells have been a concern for several years, the sheriff explained.
Overcrowding issues contributed to the jail failing to meet certification requirements from the Tennessee Corrections Institute in 2017.
“We’re the only county in Middle Tennessee that hasn’t expanded our jail. We don’t want to be decertified. The safety of our employees is important, too. The turnover rate (of staff) is so high because of overcrowding,” Breedlove said.
Some commissioners and some citizens have taken issue with the price tag for running the new facility once it is built.
Commissioner Tim Williamson expressed concerns that there would be more costs down the road. He said he would have liked to have an estimate on the operating costs of the new facility before voting to move forward on the completed plans.
“We need to know how large of a tax increase the citizens of the county will be expecting over the next few years to cover these costs. The cost of building this project will only be the beginning,” he said.
Breedlove said that there will be alternatives to what will or will not be included in the facility’s design, and that commissioners would discuss those in the coming months.