The state senate approved a house amendment and sent to the governor legislation sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) to assist Morgan County in attracting vendors to turn the former Brushy Mountain Penitentiary into a tourist attraction.
Senate Bill 1708, which aims to recruit new jobs to the area, directs a portion of the state and local sales tax proceeds from items sold in the project to the Morgan County Industrial Board for 20 years. The funds, which only exclude the portion of the sales tax used for education, will help retire the bonds that the county intends to issue to pay for the property and infrastructure for the site.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Morgan County to bring a significant private investment into the county,” said Senator Yager. “This will be a major job creator and passage of this legislation was critical to assist in paying for the infrastructure for the project.”
Brushy Mountain Penitentiary is in the final year of a five-year decommissioning by the Tennessee Department of Corrections. If the project does not move forward, the facility will essentially be abandoned by TDOC at the end of this year.
A private consortium has come forward to help develop and renovate the site into a tourist attraction, including a “moonshine” distillery. In November, voters in Morgan County, which is a dry county, overwhelmingly approved a measure to allow the distillery to operate.
“This project has the potential to revitalize our economy. I am very pleased the committee has approved it,” Senator Yager said.
The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) in the House of Representatives.