Contractor, county tour Justice Center

By FLOYD INGRAM / THE PRESS REGISTER,

 

The building is more than halfway complete and the future owners got a tour last week of what they have bought so far.

Coahoma County supervisors, department heads and even a few city officials were carried inside the Coahoma County Justice Complex by prime contractor Benchmark and scrutinized the facility February 12.

The structure is roofed, framed and basically complete except for finishing work, fixtures and furniture.

“This is the final phase of any construction project,” said Otis Griffin, who is monitoring construction for the county. “They’ve got the walls up and lights on and are busy painting, pulling wire and finishing up the details.”

The $12.49 million detention center was slated to open in the fall, but that date has been pushed back several times with plans for it to open this summer. The new jail on Desoto Avenue will replace an aging facility on Sunflower Avenue that has roof and foundation problems.

The old jail was facing $5 million in foundation issues when the decision was made to build the justice complex. The old jail has been renovated several times since it was built in 1996.

Last week’s tour was to show county officials the basic layout and features of the facility.

The CCJC is basically two buildings: one houses the Sheriff’s office and Justice Court offices and courtrooms; the second building is the Coahoma County Jail. The idea is those arrested by the city or county are brought to one location and can be safely and securely moved for their day in court.

Benchmark foreman Sylvester Fleming pointed out features such as the sally port where cars with prisoners can be brought in, building doors closed, and then prisoners gotten out of patrol cars.

There are video cameras in virtually every room with a central guard station that will soon be furnished with computer monitors.

Supervisors also toured both the men and women’s quarters. The jail can house up to 155 inmates with up to 21 of those being female. Men are housed in barracks of roughly 16 beds each.

The facility also has separate and exceedingly secure lock-down cells, a padded cell and a drunk tank.

“I just want to make sure we are getting quality work and we are getting what we are paying for,” said Board of Supervisors President, Johnny Newson. “I’ve wanted to have our person on site all along to make sure what the contractors say is getting built, is getting built.”

The county has already corrected several visible flaws that were not built as designed. Most have been minor and included roof drainage, sidewalks and wiring. The county and prime contractor have also made several design changes, specifically in the kitchen and in the guard station.

“All in all things are going well,” said Griffin. “We’ve still got some kinks to work out getting people to work and get out of the way so the next guy can come in and that always slow down a construction project.”

Contactors were hit with heavy spring rains as site construction got underway last year and pushed getting the facility plumbed, framed, roofed and dry into late summer.

The county has also been hit with contractors saying some work was not in the initial price, specifically computers, communication equipment and installation of both.

And as the project heads to completion, supervisors have asked to be kept abreast of expenses, invoices and all change orders.

Major costs not anticipated have included radio tower construction overruns and the city’s demands for specific design features on electricity, water and sewer.

The county is using a general obligation bond to pay for the facility. Supervisors began looking at the possibility of a justice complex in January 2016 when they recognized increasing maintenance costs and needs to improve offices for both the sheriff and justice court loomed on the horizon.

A justice center will allow the public to handle all county court and law enforcement business at one spot. Having deputies in and out at the Sheriff’s Department also provides additional manpower at the jail in the event of an emergency.

The county has built a road to the site at their expense.

The new jail will actually be smaller than the existing jail which has 177 beds.

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