Until now, it was spoken in hushed tones as rumors circled in Trousdale County for weeks about the return of Corrections Corporation of America, but Trousdale County Mayor Jake West dispelled the rumors Monday night during a county commission work session.
"Oct. 8, 2013…The Tennessee Department of Corrections has the intent to move forward in a partnership with Trousdale County to meet the state's anticipated bed demand for felony offenders in the next few years," said West.
West said the process started July 23 when a letter was written to the TDOC "to give consideration to Trousdale County as a potential site for future prison expansion."
"To help meet the state’s future capacity needs, TDOC has conveyed to Trousdale County that it is interested in pursuing a partnership there to build a facility," said Steve Owen, senior director of public affairs for CCA. "We’re very pleased that CCA’s site in the county has been included in these plans, presenting an opportunity to renew our previous efforts to build a facility in Trousdale County."
Currently there are 14 prisons in Tennessee, with an inmate population of 20,491.
"Over the last few years we have seen a constant growth in the prison population," said Tennessee Commissioner of Corrections Derrick Schofield. "Our population projections, which look at actual system data such as current state law, parole eligibility and historical time served for similarly situated offenders, indicates a need for more 3,400 beds in the next five years with a more short-term need for 2,500 in the next two years."
The mayor's office and CCA took the first steps to begin the process to re-start work on facility.
"There are still many specifics regarding the scope of the project, timelines and coordination among the parties to be worked out, and we expect that a more detailed announcement will follow in the coming weeks," Owens said.
West told commissioners Monday it is projected the facility could bring more than 300 new full-time jobs with $8 million-$10 million in payroll that could "turn over multiple times in the community." Plus the "nearly $1.5 million in tax revenue" the county could see in its coffers, and the "$1.8 million in utility payments to provide much needed resources" to the area without any local money involved in building the facility.
"The significant benefits to our community cannot be understated," said West.
All agree that is project will not just benefit Trousdale, but also the surrounding counties.
"I am thrilled about this," said state Sen. Ferrell Haile. "I'm thrilled that the administration and the Department of Corrections has seen to restart this project, and it will be a huge boost not only to Trousdale County but to the connecting counties."
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver said in an earlier interview, "It is very exciting, and it is tremendous for Trousdale. It is a great opportunity to brings jobs, let alone the businesses that will spawn off that."
Both West and Haile praised former Trousdale elected officials like past county commissioners, Rep. Mark Pody and Sen. Mae Beavers and business leaders like Four Lake Regional Authority who helped bring Trousdale to CCA's attention in the past.
Originally CCA announced in February 2008, they would begin building a 2,000-bed prison to the tune of $143 million at the Four Lake PowerCom Industrial Site next to were TVA had once planned to build a nuclear plant, but in February 2009 due to the slowing economy construction was postponed. Currently unfinished cellblocks sit where the proposed facility was set to be built.
"CCA originally began a project to build a correctional facility in Trousdale County in 2008, which was subsequently put on hold until a government partner could be identified," Owen said. "CCA's project garnered strong support from Trousdale County officials, who continue to be supportive. We look forward to exploring this opportunity to bring good paying jobs and other economic benefits to this community."