Work on Hawkins Justice Center begins

Jeff Bobo • Jan 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Rogersville residents should begin noticing that a big building on a hill above Highway 11-W will start looking less and less like a department store and more and more like a jailhouse and Justice Center in coming months.

That’s because work has begun — after two years of delays — on the renovation project transforming Rogersville’s old Kmart building into the Hawkins County Justice Center. The building is located on the north side of 11-W near the Park Boulevard intersection.

County Mayor Crockett Lee said Tuesday’s he’s been informed by the contractor, Hale Construction of Morristown, that the entire 500 days in the contract for completion might not be needed. Lee said completion could be as early as next January, according to the contractor.

“Of course their contract gives them 500 days to finish, but they seem to think they won’t need that long,” Lee said. “I think we should count on it by early spring 2009. Sometime between January and the end of April.

“Our contractor just finished the Hamblen County Jail, and I talked to the mayor in Hamblen County, and they’re well satisfied.”

Lee said workers began moving in equipment and started some preliminary work in late December, although the project technically began last week after New Year’s Day.

“They’ve cut trenches where they’ll put footings and taken up concrete, and cut trenches where walls will be,” Lee said. “They’ll probably start laying some block for walls before too long.”

The Justice Center project was initiated by the Hawkins County Commission in 2005 in response to separate federal lawsuits regarding jail overcrowding and because the 172-year-old Hawkins County Courthouse is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The initial $12.8 million bond for the project was issued in November 2005, and this past October the commission approved an additional $2.2 million bond issuance to address estimated cost increases.

The project was originally planned for completion in July 2007.

Completion of the drawings was delayed due to an illness on the architect’s staff, as well as to address problems that weren’t known when the property was purchased by the county including areas of the floor that were too thin and because there wasn’t enough water pressure.

The Justice Center is planned to include a 232-bed jail, courtrooms and the sheriff’s department. The $15 million price tag also includes a $2 million renovation of the downtown courthouse, although that aspect of the project is still in the design phase.

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