By Ken de la Bastide
The Tipton County commissioners have started the process for a committee to determine whether the county needs to build a new jail or renovate the existing one.
Commissioners asked county officials and Tipton Mayor Don Havens Wednesday to submit a list of people who are willing to serve on a committee to study jail overcrowding and whether renovations are needed to the Tipton County Courthouse.
Local residents interested in serving on the committee were asked to contact Auditor Greg Townsend.
Mike Cline, president of the Board of County Commissioners, said the committee also would determine whether the county should hire a consulting firm at an estimated cost of $50,000.
“We will start with a study group and then decide if we need to hire a consultant,” he said.
The study committee also will be asked to determine whether there is support among county residents to pay for the project, Cline said.
Commissioner Joe VanBibber said the project should be community driven.
Last year, consultants recommended construction of a new 100-bed jail facility for Tipton County. The consultants estimated the cost at between $7 million and $11 million. The consultants said it would be difficult to expand the existing jail because of its current location.
The existing jail has bed space for 27 inmates, and the average daily inmate population is 40.
Sheriff John Moses said the jail population Wednesday was 23, which is the lowest it has been in 22 months.
Consultants also recommended $3.5 million in renovation work to the courthouse, including a new elevator, restrooms on the third floor and the moving of several offices to increase storage space in the building.
In other business, Highway Superintendent Larry Whitesell announced his retirement effective Friday after more than 11 years on the job.
The commissioners named Brett Morris as interim highway superintendent.
“I turned 65 yesterday,” Whitesell said. “What it means to me is to go home and play. It has been a privilege to work for Tipton County. I learned a lot about how local government works.”
Whitesell said his hobbies include blacksmithing, and tending to a team of draft horses and several farm tractors.