Justice Center to open by Nov. 1

By FLOYD INGRAM / THE PRESS REGISTER,

 

The Coahoma County Board of Supervisors smiled when they were told the county’s new Justice Center will be complete by the end of October.

The county began planning for the new Justice Center in January 2016 and the facility was slated to open in the fall of 2019. Construction delays and cost overruns on the $12.49 million project have made supervisors frown more often than smile.

“It looks like we could be open the end of October, the first of November at the latest,” said Otis Griffin, County Road Manager and the county’s project manager for construction. “There are some things left to do and we’re working on a final punch list.”

The county has repeatedly used county labor and equipment to help cut costs on the new Justice Center. Work began Monday on the last overlay of the parking lot and subsequent striping.

Griffin urged the board not to accept the building until all work in complete.

The board was presented with a certificate of occupancy and a certificate of substantial completion from Benchmark, contractor for the project, saying the project was finished.

“If there are things that our fault, we need to correct them,” said Board of Supervisors President Johnny Newson. “If there are things they need to correct, we need to tighten up.”

Neither the certificate of occupancy nor the certificate of completion was signed by the board last week.

Coahoma County supervisors toured the new Justice Center in February with finishing work, fixtures and furniture still to be completed or moved in.

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.

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.

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The building has a 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 sporting computer monitors.

It was the electronics of the facility, including new 911 technology that drove the project over its anticipated cost. The county got Local and Private legislation passed in June to fund the final phase of the project to the tune of $1.2 million.

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.

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.

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.

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

In February supervisors asked to be kept abreast of expenses, invoices and all change orders.

The county started paying the electric bill at the facility in January.

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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