FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. (WHNT)-- The Lincoln County jail is about to get bigger.
The County Commission voted to accept bids on a project to extend the jail and renovate the inside of the existing portion.
Sheriff Murray Blackwelder said a contractor has been chosen for the $7.1 million project, which would up the jail's capacity for inmates from 118 to 272.
It's that number that would put them back in compliance with the state and a federal order that's been in place for nearly 24 years, said Blackwelder. The overcrowding issue the jail faces now has put them in violation of that order.
"We have inmates sleeping on the floor. We have inmates over double the capacity of cell blocks," he said. "And we understand that. But we're not able to move them out as fast as we'd like to."
Blackwelder says once the project is completed, they stand a good chance of getting that order lifted.
Sheriff Blackwelder addressed fears the project also comes with a bigger bill for the county and its taxpayers, citing the higher cost of a bigger facility.
"It's a necessity. We don't have a choice," he said.
He said he doesn't want a bigger jail for those reasons, but also because it would place a higher burden on the corrections staff who work there.
"No sheriff wants a bigger jail," he said. "...The state of Tennessee was going to shut down the Lincoln County Jail if we had not gotten in compliance."
Blackwelder said the contractor should begin groundbreaking as soon as they can.