Unicoi County jail repairs expected to top $10,000

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 26, 2016 at 10:00 PM

ERWIN - Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch on Monday gave the County Commission notice that emergency repairs to the jail’s sewer and water lines may exceed the $10,000 threshold that may require bidding for contracts.

County Attorney Doug Shults said the notice was in keeping with the county’s internal control policies and would be followed by a subsequent report from Lynch to the commission on the actual cost of the repairs.

Lynch told the commission the county does not yet have a final estimate on the cost of the repairs because of the evolving manner in which the emergency developed. An unknown portion of the cost will be covered by insurance, Lynch said.

According to the mayor, while the county did receive an initial estimate of $6,000 for the replacement of the more than 40-year-old main sewer line beneath the jail, additional problems with the jail’s water line were discovered as work on the sewer line began.

Lynch said a plumbing company attempting to clear what first appeared to be a simple grease clog in the sewer discovered the pipes had deteriorated to the point that they were crumbling and would have to be replaced.

As work to replace the old iron sewer pipes with plastic piping began, water line leaks that were apparently dumping into the sewer lines caused sewage to flood the jail’s lower level and ultimately forced an evacuation of all 63 inmates housed at the jail.

Lynch told the commission that it is his understanding insurance coverage will kick in at the point of the sewage flooding. An insurance adjuster is scheduled to visit the jail and survey the damage today.

As of Monday afternoon, the new sewer line was in place, workers were cleaning up and drying out the flooded area and work on water lines located elsewhere in the jail was underway.

In other business related to the jail, the commission also voted to authorize Lynch and Sheriff Mike Hensley to begin the process of finding a new health services provider for inmates.

Hensley told the commission the jail is experiencing serious problems with the lack of availability of the doctor employed by the Rogersville-based Rural Health company currently under contract with the jail.

According to Hensley, the Rural Health doctor has taken a second job, and on several occasions the jail nurse has been unable to contact him regarding medicine and other serious health care needs on several occasions.

Hensley said after speaking with several other local sheriffs who are no longer contracting with Rural Health, he has organized a committee made up of a local physician, health care administrator and pharmacist to help him find a provider that will meet state correctional mandates for health care and keep the county clear of any liability.

The commission also authorized County Road Superintendent Terry Haynes to begin work on the replacement of a deteriorating steel bridge on Bear Wallow Road near Rock Creek Park. Haynes said the bridge can be replaced with a concrete bridge in about two days.

A collaborative support agreement between the county and the new Rocky Fork State Park also received the commission’s approval Monday.

Park Manager Jesse Germeraad said the agreement was requested by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and is something that is being done in state park communities across Tennessee.

The agreement stipulates the county and the park will work together to develop and promote park events and activities that will enhance the health and well being of both residents of the county and park visitors from outside the area.

Monday’s commission meeting also included the election of Marie Rice to another term as commission chairwoman and Bridget Peters to another term as vice chairwoman.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.