Investor Pitches Plan to Revitalize Old County Jail

Huntsville, TN (2017-08-07) An Indiana investment group has approached the county legislative body with a proposal to purchase and revitalize the old Scott County Jail.

Dann Allen, President of Save The Old Properties (STOP), a start-up company based in Hartford City, IN, approached the Scott County Building and Grounds Committee Monday night requesting the group reconsider his company’s offer to buy the old Scott County Jail.  Allen was the only person to respond to the county’s request for proposal for future use of the jail back in the Spring.  While the proposal has not formally been discussed, Allen offered the county $25,000 for the old jail with plans to restore it to its original glory.

“We like to go in and save buildings inside and out and put them back into original condition,” Allen said.  The start-up company currently has other properties, the most notable being The Randolph Asylum in Winchester, IN.  Built in 1899 as in infirmary, the structure today is used by many different people for a variety of purposes, including photographers, filmmakers, wedding planners, and charitable event organizers.

The local jail was abandoned by the county in 2007, when it transferred its inmate population to the new jail and justice center on Scott High Drive.  Since then, little has been done to maintain the structure.  “With windows out and the roof leaking, the longer before its fixed, the more money it’s going to cost to fix it up,” Allen remarked.  The company estimated the cost to remediate the immediate problems at between $40,000 and $70,000.  Allen said the initial renovations would take an estimated three to four months, but other improvements would be continually ongoing.

Last Spring, the Scott County Commission sought proposals to either buy or lease the old jail.  During the process and afterwards, several Commissioners expressed reservations about selling the structure.  STOP doesn’t want to lease the building, but has agreed to give the county the right of first refusal to buy back the building, if it was ever sold.

After being informed by Committee Chairman Rick Russ the county legislative body likely wouldn’t support selling the historic structure, Allen requested a meeting with the committee to discuss and fully disclose his intent.  In an effort to alleviate concerns, Allen suggested the county could put language in the sale contract that would prevent certain behavior.  “We encourage covenants, so you can put stuff on there that we can and cannot do,” Allen said.

While the structure has potential for many uses, Allen stated the first groups that usually inquire about such structures are paranormal investigators.  Allen, who stated he was a Christian, stated he had seen unexplained things in the old Harford County Jail, where he currently lives.  If a paranormal group investigates, it wouldn’t be the first.  A group spent a night in the jail about two years after the closure.  It reported no activity was seen or heard.

In 2012, the county rejected a similar offer from a local investor.  “(Since then) it has sit another five years and the county hasn’t done anything to it,” Commissioner Sam Lyles commented.  In its present condition, the value of the property is unknown.  Commissioner Rick Burke suggested the county should get it appraised.  “We can say we tried to get a fair market value,” Burke added.  The historical significance of the structure would far outweigh the actual cash value.

In the absence of any action, the building will likely remain unattended and slide further into disrepair.  “I don’t want to see it continue to deteriorate,” Russ commented.

The committee agreed to continue considering Allen’s proposal, but made no commitments.