Study says moving Juvenile Court to Senior Center building would cost $1.4M

Gary B. Gray • Mar 5, 2012 at 8:43 AM

Renovating the existing Seniors’ Center for use as Johnson City’s Juvenile Court would cost about $1.4 million, according to results of a feasibility study presented Thursday to the City Commission by Thomas Weems Architects.

A combination of the approaching opening of the new Memorial Park Community Center, which will now house senior activities, and the extremely cramped quarters in which Juvenile Court is operating, caused city officials to look at the possibility of moving the court into the existing center once it is vacated and renovated.

The study is a preliminary move and does not mean anything is set in stone. However, it does appear that when the existing city-owned building at 607 E. Myrtle Ave. becomes available, it could be renovated to serve as Juvenile Court.

The big-ticket items as far as renovations on the existing Seniors’ Center include replacement of the roof and new heating and cooling systems. A conference room is planned as well as expansion of an area for the courtroom.

“It is a very appropriate location for the court,” said Juvenile Court Judge Sharon M. Green, who heads the court currently located at 102 W. Myrtle Ave. “It is in close proximity to local police zones, and it would allow for the expansion of the courtroom facilities. Our court today has a width of only 13 feet. There are high tension levels on occasion and the parties are sitting just feet apart.”

Green and the court provide forums for the presentation of legal matters concerning children. Issues addressed include child abuse/neglect, unruly children, juvenile delinquency, counseling with probation officers, child support enforcement, parentage (paternity/legitimation) and certain cases involving adults, also are addressed.

The Juvenile Court, which is about 6,000 square feet in size, would double its space by moving into the roughly 12,000-square-foot Seniors’ Center. Meanwhile, seniors could quadruple their capacity when they move to the new community center. Granted, they will not have all of that space all the time, that will be a matter of programming and scheduling. But they will have an area that will be used mainly for senior activities. Plus, they gain the use of a new pool, gymnasium and other amenities.

“They obviously need a new facility and I was impressed by the study,” said Commissioner Clayton Stout. “I’d still like to look at further cost analysis to see if we might be able to shave that amount down a bit.”

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.

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