WARTBURG (WATE) - Morgan County leaders are considering allowing voters to decide whether the county should move ahead with plans to turn the former Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex into a distillery.
Plans are still "extremely preliminary" according to county leaders, but 6 News is told there is talk with a company from outside Morgan County about opening a distillery at the prison, which has been closed since 2009.
The county said in order for the prison to turn into a distillery, the company interested in building will have to first craft a petition that meets the standards of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
There are then two options for getting that petition to lead to a referendum.
"They could either go ahead and get signatures for it or they could take it to county commission," Morgan County Administrator of Elections Tim Sweat said.
Sweat said a minimum of 650 signatures from Morgan County residents who voted during the November 2012 general election are needed for the petition to be accepted.
Some Morgan County residents expressed opposition to the plans because of concerns over bringing alcohol into a dry county.
"I don't believe in selling it. I don't believe in buying it and I don't believe in drinking it," Morgan County resident Martha Collins said.
Other Morgan County residents said the change could spur local economic growth.
"They can use the jobs, for sure, and the tax revenue off it wouldn't be bad either, I suppose," Deer Lodge resident Doug Cavin said.
"I know people need to work," Collins said. "They need the jobs, but I just don't believe in the drinking and selling it."
If Morgan County moves quickly with the plans, the referendum could be included in a special election or the next general election in Aug. 2014.
County leaders said the prison is state property, and therefore the county will work with the state if a referendum is passed in favor of the distillery.
This isn't the first time Tennessee has planned to put a distillery in a dry county. Moore County is dry and it's home to the headquarters and distillery of Jack Daniel's.
A presentation will be made to Morgan County Commission on the distillery during the July meeting.