Hawkins County commissioners seek answers on jail delays

Jeff Bobo • Feb 26, 2007 at 11:45 AM

ROGERSVILLE - One Hawkins County commissioner said Monday the commission has learned a valuable lesson with regard to delays in receiving final architectural plans for the new $12.8 million jail and justice center project.

At the conclusion of regular business during Monday's Hawkins County Commission meeting, Commissioner Danny Alvis raised the issue of the long-overdue jail plans.

Alvis asked that a Public Buildings Committee meeting be scheduled soon to give architect Tony Moore an opportunity to update commissioners on his progress.

Alvis added that many of his constituents have expressed their concern over delays in the jail project, which was approved for funding by the commission in November 2005.

Public Buildings Committee Chairman Boyd Goodson told the commission he expects a committee meeting to be scheduled in about two weeks.

During the discussion, Commissioner Fred Montgomery told the commission he'd spoken to Moore last week. Montgomery said Moore had told him the delays in finalizing the plans were due mainly to a broken hip suffered by one of his key engineers working on the project.

"I think this has given us all a valuable lesson learned," Montgomery said. "Any time we enter into a contract of any type, I think that it would be just for us to have a performance clause where there's a bonus if it's completed early and a penalty if it's completed late."

Alvis suggested that it might be time for the commission to rethink the entire project and possibly escape the "money pit" before it's too late. County Attorney Jim Phillips noted that the county is at risk of having its jail decertified if it doesn't complete the new jail as ordered by the state jail inspector.

Phillips also pointed out that the county is also under a federal order to bring the main courthouse into Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. About $2 million of the justice center project has been earmarked for a renovation of the main courthouse in which that would be accomplished.

Following a 2005 jail inspection in which overcrowding and other problems were cited, a state jail inspector gave Hawkins County until June to have its new jail up and running.

County Mayor Crockett Lee has said he is in contact with the state, and the hope is that as long as the county continues to make progress on the jail in good faith that the deadline will be extended. The new jail and justice center is planned for the old Kmart building in Rogersville and will also include a sheriff's department, courtrooms and clerk's offices.

In other business Monday the commission:

• Approved a resolution introduced by District 3 Commissioners Alvis, Phill Barrett and Charlie Thacker congratulating Surgoinsville Middle School seventh-grader Whitney Arnold for winning the 2007 Hawkins County Spelling Bee. Arnold will represent Hawkins County on March 3 at the Southern Appalachian Spelling Bee in Knoxville.

• Approved the reappointment of Claud Cain, Danny Cockreham, Larry Elkins, Terry Glass and Tommy Young to six-year terms on the Hawkins County Industrial Board.

• Approved the qualifications and duties of the Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency director as established Feb. 1 during a meeting of the commission's Public Safety Committee. Lee said now that the new qualifications and duties are established he will begin the interviewing and selection process again to fill that position.

• Approved a resolution asking Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state Reps. Mike Harrison and Dale Ford to support Gov. Phil Bredesen's proposal to use surplus state lottery funds to establish loan guarantees for construction or renovation of schools in counties that would create a credit enhancement program. The resolution noted that Hawkins County has grown in excess of 20 percent and is growing faster than revenue to fund overcrowded school projects.

The resolution also notes the impending $30,000 phase three school building project.

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