ROGERSVILLE - The architect in charge of drawing plans for the long overdue Hawkins County jail and justice center project said last week the plans should be in the hands of the fire marshal by the end of March.
A letter dated March 9 containing that announcement was mailed by Hawkins County Mayor Crockett Lee to members of the Hawkins County Commission.
In the letter, Lee tells commissioners he met with project architect Tony Moore and Moore's structure engineer, "and have stressed that they must spend whatever amount of time it takes to fulfill this commitment."
Lee added in the letter, "They have assured me that the March commitment will be met."
Commissioner Boyd Goodson who chairs the commission's Public Buildings Committee said during the Feb. 26 County Commission meeting he expected a committee meeting to be scheduled within about two weeks to discuss progress on the justice center/jail project. As of Friday no meeting had been advertised, however.
Included in Lee's letter to the commission was a second letter from Moore to the county mayor dated March 6. In that letter Moore explains that his structural engineer encountered health issues that caused delays to his duties, and those delays held up production of the entire drawing package for the justice center project.
"He is now back on track with production at expected levels," Moore stated in the letter. "Given this production we will submit drawings and specifications to the state fire marshal's office by the end of this month. We sincerely appreciate the professionalism and patience you and the Buildings Committee have afforded us during this delay and will redouble our efforts to regain time lost."
The Hawkins County Commission voted in November 2005 to issue a $12.8 million bond to pay for the new jail and justice center facilities. Seven commissioners voted against funding the project, and some said afterward they were wary about funding a project for which there were no architectural plans completed.
Fifteen months later there are still no architectural plans completed.
The project includes a 232-bed jail, a new sheriff's office, circuit, sessions and juvenile courtrooms, and clerks offices for each court - all of which will be constructed inside the former Kmart building in Rogersville.
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 this coming June to have its new jail up and running. Lee has long since abandoned hope of meeting that deadline and has said he will work with the state on extending the deadline.
Commissioners found out last summer that the price tag on the justice center project had increased by an estimated $642,000 because of two building flaws discovered after the project was approved. One flaw involved parts of the concrete slab floor being thinner than architectural plans called for, and too thin to hold jail cells and concrete block walls.
The second flaw involved inadequate water pressure to meet the demands of a sprinkler system and the pumps that would have to be installed to correct the problem.
The next question to be answered may be how much the cost of correcting those flaws, as well as the cost of the overall project, have increased due to inflation since the initial cost estimates were made a year and a half ago.