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County officials OK completed jail annex fence project

Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely and Unicoi County Commision Vice Chairman Jamie Harris check on the new fencing at the Unicoi County Jail Annex on Jackson Love Highway during a meeting last week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Unicoi County officials can mark another project off of their checklist.

The Unicoi County Building and Grounds Committee met at the Unicoi County Jail Annex, located at 1570 Jackson Love Hwy in Erwin, on Tuesday, Oct. 15, to complete a final inspection of the fencing project at the annex.

According to Unicoi County Commission Vice Chairman Jamie Harris, the project was needed to fix a number of security issues at the annex.

“It had been previously said that this fence wouldn’t hold a goat, well I can tell you, this fence will hold a goat,” Harris said.

As part of the project, the fencing has been raised to 10 feet and razor wire has been added to sections to keep the public out and other parts to keep the inmates in.

“Around the rec yard you can see that the razor wire is there to keep anyone from climbing over, but the outer fencing has razor wire to keep people from trying to get in,” Harris said.

The Unicoi County Commission originally heard the request for fencing repairs at the Feb. 25 Unicoi County Commission meeting. At that time, the commission approved a capital outlay note in the amount of $200,000.

The estimated fencing costs were priced around $25,000. Also included in the capital outlay note was new equipment for the UCSD, including new vests that were estimated to cost $20,000 and new security equipment that is estimated to cost $5,000. The remaining $150,000 was for the purchase of four new vehicles for the UCSD.

During the Feb. 25 meeting, McCall was awarded the project with a bid of $22,710, which would include labor and materials to put up a 10 foot galvanized steel fence with razor ribbon.

According to Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely, the project came in within budget because the county was able to keep the cost lower by utilizing existing fencing and razor wire. “The invoice was exactly what was budgeted,” Evely said. “We were able to use some of the post and fencing already standing on site and we were able to use razor wire that has been stored in the sheriff’s military surplus.”

The new fencing also provides more security for the impound lot as well as for the 911 dispatchers who operate out of the building as well.

“We put new gates in, and on the back perimeter lot is all new and there is a new gate for the dispatchers,” Harris said. “It’s very secure now.”

According to Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley, the fence has been an issue for a while.

“We are going to have to operate two jails,” Hensley said. “We realized that we would need to secure the annex. We actually had an inmate escape before the fencing project was started.”

Hensley was appreciative of the commission and the work that was done.

“We are absolutely pleased. The fencing is up to code now,” Hensley said. “I appreciate the work the commission put into this project. I’m very glad they did this; it’s just common sense. This makes the community and the employees that work here so much safer.”