The Trousdale County Commissioners voted last Monday night on two major contracts, putting the final puzzle pieces into place that will allow the construction to begin on a new 2,500-bed state prison facility in Hartsville.
The first contract was an agreement between the TN State Department of Corrections and Trousdale County. Trousdale became a contracted facilitator of prison inmates when that contract was signed, and agreed to host the new Trousdale County Correction Facility, as it will be called.
In the second contract, Trousdale entered into an agreement with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In this contract, CCA agrees to take on responsibility and liability for the operation of the prison. This includes liability for food, medical care, and all programs designed to rehabilitate inmates.
“We’re very pleased, obviously, with the outcome of Trousdale County’s vote the other night, and we’re encouraged by the process,” said Steve Owen, Public Affairs Director for CCA. “And we’re looking forward to helping the state of TN to meet its expressed correctional needs, and helping Trousdale County in that effort—while at the same time, bringing very positive economic impact to Trousdale and the surrounding counties.”
Owen said that the 2,500-bed facility would create nearly 400 new jobs when it is fully operational—over 30 percent more than numbers previously quoted to the Times.
“That’s a tremendous job opportunities for the region, quite frankly,” said Owen. “And when we talk about jobs, we’re not simply talking about correctional officers and wardens. That’s what most people think of when they think of prisons—but you know, prisons are a community in and of themselves, so there are a diverse range of career opportunities outside of security. So you’ll have doctors, nurses, administrative clerks, maintenance workers, teachers, counselors… a whole host of opportunities for people with diverse experiences.”
He also pointed out that because CCA is privately owned and unlike a public facility, it will be contributing property taxes and other applicable sales taxes to the area. He estimated somewhere around 1-1.5 million in property taxes and another 2-2.5 million in utilities, other taxes, and other fees. Although the lion’s share of that money will directly affect the Trousdale County government, it will have a wider impact on Macon’s economy and school system.
“It will benefit local schools,” said Owen. “Because we’re hiring—typically when we open a facility the overwhelming majority of the hiring is done locally—which means you’re adding funds to the local family, the local school districts. But you’re not adding costs because the people are already enrolled in the community schools.”
The hiring process is still some months away, as the estimated construction finish date is in the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2015. “And then it would be the end of 2015 before we would be in a position to open the facility,” said Owen. “So close to that time frame, there would obviously be a lot of time with CCA to recruit and probably hold job fairs. So more information to come on that front, later on.”
But in the meantime, Owen was quick to point out, the construction itself will be underway. This will provide immediate opportunities for local subcontractors and construction material suppliers. “So that’s another economic shot in the arm for the community I think, even before we actually open the facility.”
Owen also specifically thanked the local communities: “I think I would be very remiss if I didn’t also add—that we are extremely appreciative of the support that local officials and the community—in Trousdale and surrounding communities like Macon—have shown CCA. And the trust they’ve put in us… we’re very appreciative, and we look forward to a long term partnership with the community.”
Charly Lyons with the Four Lake Authority also expressed optimism about the coming partnership. The land CCA purchased for this project is located in the PowerCom Industrial Center, off of Hwy 25. This park is owned by the Four Lake Industrial Development Authority, which was established by the state of Tennessee in 1984 to promote commerce in five counties: Macon, Trousdale, Sumner, Smith, and Wilson.
Lyons expressly reminded the Macon County community that while Four Lake is actively pursuing new businesses for the PowerCom Industrial Center that is under their care, Four Lake is constantly working to bring commerce to Macon as well. Just within the last few weeks, they presented Lafayette with a $20,000 grant check, which will pay for the engineering on our own industrial park.
“If someone calls us,” said Lyons, “we don’t just sell PowerCom—we sell the whole region.”