BLOUNTVILLE - Members of the Sullivan County Commission's Budget Committee seemed happy with news Thursday that the county's new jail facility is now about half full.
In other words, it's partially open - something commissioners had anticipated happening more than a week ago.
Last week Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson delayed the new facility's May 1 opening, citing needed "adjustments" to make it safer and more secure for both inmates and jail staff.
Anderson told the Times-News then that he planned to make the needed adjustments to all the "bays" on one side of the facility - four back-to-back "bays," each designed to hold up to 28 inmates, open off two sides of a center hallway about the length of the building - transfer inmates to the completed side, then finish work on the other side.
On Thursday, Anderson's office issued a press release to say 96 inmates - the number who would fit in four bays on one side of the facility - were moved to the new facility on Wednesday.
The move took about 3Â½ hours and was completed without incident, according to the press release.
One reason for the delayed opening: Doors to the "bays" didn't have any "pie holes" - narrow slots through which jail personnel can pass items without opening the door.
The facility has eight large dormitory-style cells, and each has two doors. So 16 doors needed to be outfitted with the slots.
Designed to ease overcrowding at the county's current jail, the new facility will house up to 240 inmates in a minimum- and medium-security setting.
Completed earlier this year at a cost of about $3.4 million, it will operate in addition to the current county jail at an estimated cost of about $1.2 million per year - money that will have to be included in the county's budget year beginning July 1.
Anderson, with approval from the County Commission, hired 25 new employees to work at the new jail.
Before learning from news reporters that some inmates had been moved to the new facility, Budget Committee member Ralph Harr on Thursday bemoaned the cost of the new personnel for what he thought was a still empty jail.
"That's costing us $3,500 a day," Harr said.