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Jail construction delays may be costly

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

Some serious issues are facing the county’s new jail project, and not all are weather related.

The county has around $10 million committed to the project, which was supposed to be finished in early spring of 2009.

Now Roane County Executive Mike Farmer is saying he doesn’t know when the project will be finished or if it will be completed on budget.

“I don’t have any idea,” Farmer said. “I can’t answer that question.”

Farmer is certain that construction is more than four months behind, which could mean some serious economic repercussions for the county.

Taxpayers could end up having to pay the bill if additional money is needed to complete the project.

“We’re 120 days behind, and this has got the potential to cost us a whole lot of money,” Farmer told members of the county commission Monday night.

The county has gotten involved with a host of contractors and subcontractors for the project.

Commissioner Ray Cantrell asked Farmer if there was anything in the original contract that would penalize a company for not completing work in a specified period of time.

Apparently there’s not.

“We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 contracts, and I don’t know that any of them have any kind of penalty clause,” Farmer said.

The new jail will be on North Third Street in Kingston.

Work started last summer.

One phase of the project consists of renovating the existing building that is connected to Dollar General Store.

That space will house the sheriff’s and emergency management offices.

The part of the project that will house prisoners is what appears to be falling into controversy. For months, the site has only consisted of dirt and gravel.

County officials previously cited rainy weather and a Monday-through-Thursday construction schedule for the lack of progress being made.

However, the problems go beyond that.

The site has some issues that need to be corrected before the new building’s frame can start to take shape.

According to officials, the county contracted with a company called J&M to do the site work.

Brian Mullins of Site Worx LLC said J&M then subcontracted with him to do the work.

Mullins said he’s now being scapegoated for the delays, and he’s upset about it.

He insist he did nothing wrong, and has a construction diary, e-mails, letters, photos and tape recordings that he says will back up all his claims.

“I have indisputable proof that at no time have I done anything wrong at this jail,” Mullins said.