ROGERSVILLE - The Hawkins County justice center and jail project has taken its first step forward in more than a year with the final architectural drawings being submitted to the state fire marshal's office for review last week.
County Mayor Crockett Lee said Wednesday that the county's architect, Tony Moore, submitted the final drawings to the fire marshal's office Friday around noon.
In November of 2005 the Hawkins County Commission approved the issuance of a $12.8 million bond to pay for the project and has been waiting for the architectural plans ever since.
The project entails renovation of Rogersville's old K-Mart building into a new 232-bed jail; a new sheriff's office; circuit, sessions and juvenile courtrooms; and clerks offices for each court.
About $2 million of the $12.8 million bond issue is intended to pay for a renovation of the 171-year-old main courthouse in downtown Rogersville as well.
Moore told the county last month he would have the plans completed and in the hands of state fire marshal by the end of March. Moore explained that part of the reason for the long delay was health problems suffered by an engineer working on the drawings.
"He kept his word and got the plans into the fire marshal, but beyond that I have no specific timeline for further progress," Lee said Wednesday. "Right now we're waiting to hear back from the fire marshal, and assuming everything is OK we'll be ready to advertise for bids. That will be the next big hurdle because that's when we're going to find out exactly how much this project is going to cost.
"Up until now we've been working with the architect's cost estimate, and hopefully the low bid is going to come in under that."
One aspect of the plans that will likely be of interest to the state fire marshal is Moore's solution for a low water pressure problem that was reported to the county commission last summer. In order to provide the new jail with adequate water pressure for fire sprinklers and inmate living quarters the county will construct two pump stations at a 12-inch water line that runs along Highway 11-W. One station will pump water up the hill to the Justice Center for general water use, and one pump will serve the fire sprinkler system alone.
Aside from the water pressure problem, Moore also discovered last year that contrary to the original building plans - which showed a floor slab 4.5 inches thick - in some places it was only 2.5 inches thick and would not support the weight of prefabricated jail cells.
Strengthening the floor and increasing water pressure bumped the cost of the project up an estimated $642,000.