Sullivan officials planning trip to Georgia jails

J. H. Osborne • Nov 10, 2019 at 2:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A group of Sullivan County commissioners could be off to Georgia next month on a fact-finding mission regarding jail construction.

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable, on advice from the consulting firm working on Sullivan County’s jail overcrowding problem, has suggested county commissioners join him and whoever wants to go to represent the sheriff’s office and jail to visit at least two county jails in the suburban Atlanta area. A main goal is to view two different types of cells, precast and steel, to compare how well each has stood up over the years they’ve been in use.

Earlier this year, nearly a year after receiving proposals from seven architectural firms, the Sullivan County Commission hired Michael Brady Inc. at a cost not to exceed $225,000 as a “first phase of trying to build a new jail.” The work is expected to be complete by Thanksgiving.

Whichever type of cell is chosen for any jail construction in Sullivan County will drive how the project is built, representatives of MBI said at a meeting Thursday.

The two jails they suggested Sullivan officials visit are the Gwinnett County Jail, northeast of Atlanta, and the Douglas County Jail, east of Atlanta. Both are large facilities with a few years of age on them, the MBI reps said:

• The four-story Gwinnett County Jail has 2,000 beds in precast cells and has been in service 10 years.

• The Douglas County Jail has more than 1,000 beds in steel cells and has been in service six years.

MBI also has a jail construction project underway in Paulding County, Georgia, but the representatives said county officials can glean more information by visiting the two jails which have been in use for years. That way they can look firsthand at how well each type of cell has held up under the wear and tear of use, as well as get feedback from the local sheriffs and jail staff there about how well the different types of cells have worked.

Venable said he would survey Sullivan County’s 24 commissioners to gauge interest in what would likely be an overnight trip to view the Georgia jails. He said they could go by bus or travel individually. And he wants the trip to take place in the first half of December.

“We could make a day trip out of it,” Venable said. “But it’s going to be a long day.”