Courthouse renovation resumes; jail repairs, reinforcement begin


The renovation project to add a ramp for disabled persons to the front of the Blount County Courthouse, idled since early August, will resume next week, according to Probate Judge/Commission Chairman Chris Green.

The original contract was terminated by the Blount County Commission due to breach of contract related to lengthy delays and unsatisfactory work.

“I signed the settlement agreement with the bonding company Monday. We will review the contract with the new contractor, and work on the front of the building will resume by next week,” Green said.

The project was about halfway complete when the original contact was terminated. The ramp itself remains to be completed, along with work relocating sidewalks, building parallel walls across the front of the lawn, and replacing landscaping and sod when construction is finished. Blount County Correctional Facility

Work to repair the jail following a breakout of two prisoners on Oct. 8, will begin today or tomorrow, according to Tim Kent, operations officer for the Blount County Sheriff’s Department.

“Yes, delivery of the razor wire is scheduled for today or early tomorrow and contractors will begin work to install it around the outside of the jail,” he said. Blount County Sheriff Loyd Arrington told the commission last week that four feet of additional razor wire would be installed and anchored next to the chain link fence circling the jail, along with an additional run of razor wire to create an inward-slanting overhang at the top of the fence itself.

Remaining to be done is for Lathan and Associates Architects to conduct an inspection of the walls of the jail itself to determine the best method of remedying a serious structural deficiency discovered as a result of the escape. At the place where inmates cut a hole in their cell wall to escape, it was discovered that the concrete block of the wall had not been poured solid with concrete, as presumably called for in the specifications, at the time the jail was built.

Arrington told the commission he planned to sheathe the walls of the jail in 1/2-inch steel. Following executive session, the commission voted to engage Lathan and Associates to review construction plans and determine the extent of remediation necessary to assure the integrity of jail walls. It is possible steel sheathing will be used for the block of 12 cells used to contain inmates requiring maximum security, although that determination awaits the full review process.