A 124-bed addition to the Sumner County Jail is an expansion that local law enforcement officials say they hope is never used but is unfortunately needed as the area continues to grow.
Officials gathered at the Gallatin facility to mark the completion of the $5 million project on May 18. The expansion also allows for an additional 124 beds to be added in the future if needed.
“As Sumner County continues to grow it is important that we prepare for the future growth of our community and this includes addressing the needs of our judicial system and sheriff’s office,” Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt said about the expansion. “This will provide much-needed inmate housing and help alleviate the overcrowding that has been an issue for quite some time.”
Officials broke ground on the addition in March of last year.
The project marks the first major expansion of the jail since an 88,000-square-foot tower was completed along with facility expansions and internal renovations in 2004. The capacity of the facility increased from 662 beds to 832 beds in 2013 after triple-bunking was added to a majority of the cells.
The new addition, which will be used for female inmates, will not only be used to accommodate future growth, but it will also free up space to be used for juvenile inmates being tried as adults. Currently, juveniles are held in the jail’s medical area due to lack of available space required to keep them separated from the rest of the inmate population.
According to new Sumner County Jail Administrator Jerry Scott, the facility is currently home to about 500 inmates.
However, officials say that number is expected to increase as the Tennessee Department of Corrections begins needing more places to house inmates who are waiting to be transferred to a state facility or other institution.
“The state released thousands of inmates due to Covid,” Scott said. “(They) used to pay us to keep them, but now they are taking them straight to the state to fill their beds. Once that is full, I imagine that over the coming months we’ll renormalize between 800 and 1,000 inmates. Fortunately for us, we’ve got the space now to do that and the space to grow if we need to.”
Sheriff: Scott hiring an ‘asset’ for jail
Scott has been in charge of the jail since late February following the retirement of longtime jail administer Sonya Troutt after 24 years with the county.
Prior to accepting the position, Scott served as the deputy director for the Shelby County Division of Corrections where he oversaw an approximately 160-acre campus and facility with more than 3,000 beds.
“He has done great so far,” Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford said. “He is very knowledgeable and absolutely an asset here.”
Originally from Greeneville, Tenn., Scott spent nearly 24 years with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office before going to work for the Tennessee Corrections Institute in 2013. He stayed with the state agency for more than five years before leaving to work for Shelby County in late 2018.
In addition to his work with law enforcement, Scott is also a talented vocalist who has been performing in public since 1985. He previously sang with a gospel group while in East Tennessee and is currently a member of Last Soul Kiss, a group he describes as sounding like the Allman Brothers with a touch of Roy Orbison.
In 1994, he was named vocalist of the year by southern gospel magazine Singing News and had opportunities to pursue a singing career full-time if he wanted.
“I’ve always felt like music was my profession, but this really became a calling,” Scott said about his decision remain in law enforcement. “I realized in 1990 that I could actually make a difference here and that these folks (inmates and staff) needed me.”
Since starting in his new role earlier this year, Scott has been working to improve employee retention.
He said he is also focused on continuing to provide reentry programs and educational opportunities to inmates so that they will become productive members of society when they are released from custody.
“Most of the people that come into this facility will become members of the Gallatin and Sumner County community at some point again,” Scott said. “We want to make them better, not worse, and use our resources to do that.
“We’d love to say that we don’t need all these (new) beds in the future, because that means we’re successful in the way that we’re doing things here.”
Gallatin residents who choose to have the city collect their trash each week will soon have to pay more for the service.
In a unanimous decision last week, the Gallatin City Council gave final approval for a monthly rate increase from $12 to $16 per trash can beginning July 1. For non-customers, the cost of brush pickup will increase from $75 to $150 per load.
Without the rate increase, officials with the city’s public works department have previously warned that brush pickup services would suffer as more resources were needed to keep up with garbage collection across the city.
“We can either do away with (brush pickup) or we can keep the services at the level that we have now, but it costs more,” District 3 Councilman Jimmy Overton said May 18. “It costs more for (waste disposal) fees, it costs more for employee salaries, it costs more for all of that stuff. I don’t think anybody can expect us to continue year after year on the same amount of money that we’re bringing in.”
In addition to trash and brush collection, residents who live inside the city limits and choose to pay for the service also receive bulk item pickup for no additional charge.
In recent weeks, District 5 Councilman John D. Alexander has said he is “concerned” about how the rate increase would impact senior citizens, especially those living on a fixed income, and asked if there was anything the city could do to help.
Mayor Paige Brown referenced Sumner County’s tax relief program as a possible example of one way the city could help and said she plans to discuss the issue further at a work session meeting in the future.
According to the county’s program, homeowners 65 years of age and older as well as those who are disabled can apply to have their property tax rate frozen if they meet certain income-based qualifications. Disabled veterans or their widow/widower can also apply for the program.
Even after the rate increase, Brown said she still feels the city’s trash service is still a “good value” for residents.
“A lot of people don’t realize it, but (trash collection) is a service that you pay for in the city that you do not have to take,” Brown added. “Some people elect to take their own trash to the resource authority and that is certainly an option, or they use an independent hauler.”
Residents who pay for city trash collection but wish to cancel their service can do so by contacting Gallatin Public Works at 615-452-2147.
City leaders last approved a similar $4 per trash can monthly rate increase in September 2013.
According to the most recent data from Gallatin Public Utilities, which handles billing for service, there are 13,242 customers who are billed for a combined 15,391 trash cans in the city.
Whataburger is planning to build its first Sumner County location in Gallatin, a spokesperson for the company confirmed last week.
On Monday, the Gallatin Planning Commission approved plans submitted by the popular burger chain to build a 3,751-square-foot restaurant on 1.28 acres located at 1123 Nashville Pike next to Fifth Third Bank and directly across from Walmart.
“This is one of the more modern Whataburgers that is the latest prototype,” Assistant City Planner Josh King told members during a work session earlier this month about the design of the proposed restaurant.
While a spokesperson for Whataburger confirmed in an email to the Gallatin News on May 20 that company will indeed be “bringing our iconic burgers and exceptional customer service to Gallatin,” they declined to comment further about specific plans for the location.
The San Antonio-based company announced its return to Tennessee last year with a restaurant on Old Hickory Boulevard in Hermitage, which is expected to open later this fall.
According to an online job listing posted in late October, Whataburger was also looking to hire a general manager in Gallatin in addition to Lebanon, Madison and Murfreesboro.
“We’re always excited to hear we have so many fans across the country, and we are looking to open restaurants in Tennessee, Kansas City and our existing markets as part of future expansion plans,” Whataburger Senior Vice President of Real Estate James Turcotte said in a prepared statement about the company’s expansion plans last summer.
Founded in 1950, Whataburger has more than 830 restaurants across 10 states. The company employs 45,000 workers and boasts more than $2 billion in sales annually.
According to development plans for the Gallatin location, construction of the restaurant is estimated to begin in August and would be completed in February 2022.