The final decision about how to fix undesirable work conditions at the Unicoi County Jail and Sheriffs Department depend on results from an environmental study, which was hastened by a recommendation at the Building and Grounds Committee meeting on Jan. 2.
Commissioners and committee members met with Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch, Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley and Gary Tysinger, whose company is contracted to conduct the environmental study.
Lynch said the environmental study is the first step in solving the issue and it must be completed quickly.
[Tysinger] thinks it can be done in two weeks, Lynch said on Thursday.
Tysinger said the study would cost approximately $3,600. Tysinger also said the study will identify the problem areas associated with the jail sustaining leaks from inmates stopping up toilets in the cells above 911 and sheriff department offices. The test will check for air quality, mold, bacteria, lead and asbestos.
Theres no way I can keep them from flooding it, Sheriff Hensley said. Sheriff Hensley explained that over the years holes have been put in the ceiling in order to access pipes and for other maintenance purposes. He said the holes allow moisture and drainage to seep into the ceiling tiles over the sheriffs department and 911 center.
If that test comes back to show any mold or bacteria, were going to have to move them very quickly, Commissioner Bill Hensley said.
Sheriff Hensley said he felt the test would return a positive result for some kind of bacteria or mold.
We have to look at the big picture, Sheriff Hensley said. We need options if this thing comes back positive and Im sure it will. I can tell you right now theres no doubt in my mind that something is there.
Lynch said in order to expedite the study, the money will come out of his budget and reimbursement through the County Commission is expected at a later date.
Unicoi County 911 Director Patsy Ledford said the equipment, which will link and update 911 centers in seven other counties, would take about three months to completely install.
Ledford said she understands the deadline to have the system installed is around the end of June.
We really should have had all the wiring done by now, Ledford said. They are going to have to do something soon because we need to be completely online by June with all this stuff, which means theyve got a lot of work to do.
Ledford said the 911 system update was the result of a contract entered into with surrounding counties in order to make the 911 hub more efficient.
Ledford said she feels like the 911 department has nowhere to go, if the study returns a positive for any health risks. However, during a County Commission work session meeting on Wednesday, Commissioner Mickey Hatcher suggested the county find a space to lease.
Can we not consider the possibility of leasing property that would suffice for the sheriffs department and 911 to be located in together? Hatcher said. It wouldnt take it off the tax roll and it wouldnt be a huge capital investment on the front end.
Hatcher said the cost would be consistent, easier to anticipate and the owner would be responsible for maintenance and upkeep.
For the remainder of this article please pick up the Jan 8 2013 edition of The Erwin Record.
By Kayla Carter