With Funds Scarce,
For Aging Facility
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The roof on the Greene County Detention Center has significant leaks, but with discussions under way concerning the possibility of building a new jail, County Commissioners will soon have to determine whether taxpayers' money should be put into expensive upkeep of the existing facility.
On Wednesday, the Greene County Budget & Finance Committee spent considerable time discussing the matter before concluding that the best option is to wait for input from the full County Commission during the upcoming Jan. 22 meeting.
The discussion began with the presentation of results from a Nov. 20 bid for re-roofing the worst areas (about half of the building or less), sealing the concrete recreation area to prevent water leakage into the habitable areas below, and painting steel areas that have begun to rust.
Of the five contractors bidding on the project, Hoilman Construction, of Johnson City, had the lowest bid at $79,700 for the base project, or $84,700 for the same project using what Architect Dave Wright described as "better materials" to seal the concrete area.
Wright recommended the $84,700 bid to the committee.
"It's a major problem," County Mayor Alan Broyles told the committee, explaining that the water leak is significant enough to cause structural damage and needs to be addressed.
However, he also noted that it is a "complicated roof," with a lot of equipment that would have to be moved.
"Keep in mind, our Capital Projects Fund is not healthy enough to put this roof on," he cautioned the committee.
Broyles said that the fund is currently around $67,000 and recommended temporarily taking the remainder from the General Fund (the fund out of which most county budgets operate).
That money would later be restored to the General Fund as the Capital Projects Fund rebuilds, he added.
Budget Director Mary Shelton explained that the state rents the building on Hal Henard Road for the local Driver Service Center at a rate of $3,750 per month. All of this money goes into the Capital Projects Fund, she said.
As discussion continued, Sheriff Steve Burns noted that breaking the projects into parts without re-roofing the entire building at once would only increase the cost by the end of the project.
The county could save money by completing the full project while the contractor is already there with his equipment, the sheriff said.
In fact, he said that when the contractors first surveyed the project, they believed the other portions to already be "rotten" as well, with just enough patching to keep them from leaking at this time.
Also factoring into the discussion was that Hoilman Construction was scheduled to better survey the project on Wednesday evening and had already cautioned the county that the price of rubber is rumored to be increasing on Jan. 15.
The center's roof is flat, with a rubber membrane covered in gravel with metal flashings lapping over the concrete edges to protect from leaks, Wright explained.
He said he believes the rubber membrane to be in fairly good shape still, with the majority of the leaks coming from the aging flashing.
'SHOOTING IN THE WIND'
County Commissioner Robert Bird expressed his reluctance to see the county pay out a large sum on the roofing project in light of the facility's recent decertification by the Tennessee Corrections Institute.
The decertification has prompted considerable discussion that has most recently centered between building a new facility on Hal Henard Road or updating and expanding the current facility.
"Here we are working on a plan to replace this jail and, although we don't have anything, we're maybe shooting in the wind," Bird said.
"I'd hate to spend $400,000 on this and then start building a new jail."
Commissioner Phil King agreed, saying, "I don't see us spending a lot of money on something we're going to do away with in a couple years."
Mayor Broyles and Commissioner M.C. Rollins, however, said they believe there is a need to properly maintain the building, even if it is not utilized as the county's jail.
Sheriff Burns also noted that the ongoing project to build a roof over the recreation area at the workhouse on Summer Street has also exceeded its $10,000 contingency due to the need to add metal to the walls and chainlink fencing inside them as well.
He requested up to an additional $10,000 from the Capital Projects Fund to cover the installation of additional security cameras in this area, as well as to reimburse his departmental fund for Wright's architect fee.
The committee approved the request and agreed to postpone a decision on the jail's roof until Wright can confer with the contractor concerning possibly patching the roof rather than re-roofing it.
Purchasing Agent Diane Swatzell noted that making a change toward patching the roof rather than replacing it would require a new bidding process because it would significantly change the scope of the project.