Center renovation for new Juvenile Court OK’d

Gary B. Gray • Feb 7, 2013 at 10:14 PM

The City Commission unanimously agreed Thursday to enter in to a roughly $1.1 million contact with Kingsport’s Armstrong Construction to renovate the former Seniors’ Center for use as Johnson City’s Juvenile Court.

“They should begin in mid-March, and they’ll have 270 days to complete the contract,” architect Thomas Weems said about a long-awaited move that will renovate the 10,000-square-foot building at 607 E. Myrtle Ave, nearly doubling the size of the current court down the road at 102 W. Myrtle Ave.

A total of 13 contractors submitted bids to enlarge Judge Sharon M. Green’s current court, which, coincidentally is only 13 feet wide. This has caused tensions to rise in a setting meant for resolution, but the renovation will include a courtroom that will be about 25 to 35 feet wide.

In March, the total cost estimate for renovations was about $1.4 million, according to results of a feasibility study presented to the City Commission by Thomas Weems Architects. But commissioners later asked Weems to bring down the cost, and the bids reflected that.

Before the vote, Mayor Jeff Banyas asked City Manager Pete Peterson why the contingency amount of $25,000 appeared to be low.

“We would prefer to have a 10 percent contingency,” Peterson said. “Mr. Weems has worked as hard as possible to get this back close to around a million dollars, and the things taken out will not affect the building at all.”

If everything goes according to plan, Johnson City will open the doors to the completely renovated juvenile court near the first of next year. Bid documents show the big-ticket items include replacement of the roof and new heating and cooling systems. The new courtroom will be carved out of the old gymnasium, increasing elbow room dramatically.

The new court also will include a conference room used for “child and family team meetings.” The drive-thru portion of the old center will be demolished to make way for a large lobby, or waiting area, that will double the number of chairs from 30 to 60, Green said. Parking also will be much improved.

Just exactly what will happen to the existing Juvenile Court building and parking lot remains unknown, though there has been talk about converting it for an alternate municipal use.

Commissioners also approved an agreement with Watauga Avenue Presbyterian Church to jointly utilize parking areas owned by the city and the church. The parking is between what will be the new court and the church.

The commission also passed a second reading of an ordinance aimed at making land in the Suncrest and Bobby Hicks Highway areas more developer friendly. The ordinance amends the city’s zoning map to reflect the removal of the City-County Overlay and the establishment of the Corridor Overlay along the city right-of-way on the Boones Creek Road and Bobby Hicks Highway corridors in Gray.

These two areas run down the middle of the Suncrest Annexation and the failed Bobby Hicks Highway annexation, and any properties within 300 feet from the edge of city right-of-way will be included. Properties outside the city would not be affect unless annexed into the city.

Basically, the difference in the two districts is the new overlay status removes additional requirements placed on new developments, according to Angie Charles, senior planner.

Finally, commissioners passed a second reading of an ordinance to annex slightly more than 10 acres along the Kingsport Highway that includes about 3,640 feet of Bobby Hicks Highway. This is a property owner-requested annexation.

The annexation would bring into the city’s jurisdiction more than 10 acres along the Kingsport Highway that includes about 3,640 feet of Bobby Hicks Highway. The property, which now lies within Washington County’s jurisdiction, is zoned B-3A (general business district). The ordinance would rezone the property to B-4 (planned arterial business district).

The assessed value of the commercial property in $73,120, and the estimated annual revenue to the city in property tax would be about $1,150.

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