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Options sought on leaky Unicoi County Jail

November 27th, 2012 9:02 am by Brad Hicks

Options sought on leaky Unicoi County Jail

ERWIN — The Unicoi County Commission wants information on the options available in either repairing flooding and leaking issues at the Unicoi County Jail that are negatively impacting the county’s sheriff’s department and 911 offices versus the relocation of these offices.
Members of the commission present at Monday’s regular meeting unanimously approved a motion to put out a request for quotes for architectural firms to evaluate options concerning the 911 and sheriff’s department offices.
Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley discussed the matter with the county’s emergency communications district board in September. Hensley said the roof of the Unicoi County Jail, which is located directly above the 911 dispatch center and sheriff’s department offices, is experiencing leaking problems. He also said inmates are causing flooding in the jail by stopping up drains and commodes which, like the roof flooding, causes water to finds its way to the offices below.
Engineers with Tysinger, Hampton and Partners were previously brought in to assess the situation, and they in turn called in Spirit Architecture. In a letter addressed to Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch, Spirit Architecture representatives expressed concern that the leaking and flooding could create an unsafe environment due to the mold and bacteria it could create. The firm also recommended relocation of the 911 and sheriff’s department offices.
Another concern for officials is the mandated upgrades to the county’s 911 equipment that must be in place by July. Officials previously said they are concerned that water leaking down from the jail could damage this new equipment. Because of this, Commission Vice Chairman Bill Hensley said the commission must act on a remedy quickly.
“The sheriff and 911 is under the gun,” Bill Hensley said. “They’ve got to have a lot of work done before June. You can’t just come in and put all of that equipment in in a week or two.”
The sheriff also said it is important that the 911 and sheriff’s department offices be kept in close proximity if relocation is necessary, as separating the two would lead to the need for additional personnel and equipment. He also said these two offices would be best suited if they remain near the county’s courthouse.
One potential relocation area that will not be taken into account by the firm hired to evaluate possible options will be the Jail Annex. Sheriff Hensley told commissioners available space at the facility would be insufficient to meet the needs of the sheriff’s department and 911 offices.
The RFQ will likely be advertised with the coming days, and the commission is set to meet in a called session in early January to approve the winning bid.
In other business, the commission:
n Approved a resolution recognizing the Zane Whitson Welcome Center, which was named the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s 2012 Tennessee Welcome Center of the Year.
n Approved a motion to cancel the commission’s regular December meeting. The commission will instead meet in a work session on Dec. 18 beginning at noon at the Unicoi County Courthouse.

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