Contaminated Jail Site

Sevierville, Sevier County (WVLT) - Sevier County officials are concerned about serious overcrowding at the jail.

But the solution to the problem is also a concern.

As Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb reports, the site is riddled with environmental problems officials hope to clean up by the time construction begins in January.

Sevier County's jail is overcrowded. State inspectors recently found more than 300 inmates designed for a facility to hold just over 200. One former inmate says the bathrooms are a mess.

"You take a shower, the drainage stayed half stopped up and you're walking in urine," the former inmate who asked not to be identified says.

Sheriff Bruce Montgomery admits the jail is overcrowded but says they clean up any spills once they happen.

The county commission last May agreed to purchase property at an old metal manufacturing company next to the fairgrounds to build a new jail knowing it was contaminated.

"Cleaned up from the perspective that a certain amount of soil had to be removed from the property," says Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters.

The purchase went through in October and Waters says the company is responsible for the cleanup.

"I think the cleanup is not going to take that long as I understand it," Waters says.

Some residents question why officials would even consider the purchase.

"That was already contaminated," says Jay Funk, Sevierville resident. "They should have looked into it better than just buy it off right away."

"There's plenty of property around here. I mean they could go out 66. They could go out 411. There's plenty empty land you know of people willing to sell," says resident Patricia Petit.

County officials say some soil sampling has been done but cleanup remains but plans to move forward with the new jail are on.

"Actually pouring footers and starting the facility sometimes around the first of January," Waters says.

Economic Development Council Director Alan Newton says the company will also be responsible for clearing the building on the land and cleaning up any contaminants.

According to the purchase agreement, the company Johnson Matthew Incorporated will be allowed to continue operating on the property until the end of March with a lease rate of $10 per month.