ERWIN — Construction work to relocate Unicoi County’s emergency dispatch center and the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department’s investigative office to the Unicoi County Jail Annex has begun, and Sheriff Mike Hensley feels these offices could be in closer proximity to his department’s administrative offices by early spring.
A storage facility on the Jail Annex property that was used to house sheriff’s department equipment and MedicOne Medical Response ambulances is being converted to serve as the location of the 911 and investigative offices. Work began around three weeks ago and, so far, crews have installed plumbing, raised the floor and placed a new roof on the building.
Hensley said new walls will be installed and half the building will be used by sheriff’s department investigators, with the other half set up for the 911 center. He said the investigative side will include interrogation rooms, an evidence room and offices for the investigators. He also said a covered corridor to link the former storage area to the main Jail Annex facility will be constructed.
Water finding its way into the offices prompted their move. At a September 2012 meeting of the county’s Emergency Communications District Board, Hensley told officials that water at the Unicoi County Jail in downtown Erwin, caused by a leaking roof and inmates stopping up commodes and drains in the jail, was finding its way to the sheriff’s department offices and and 911 center located directly beneath the jail. He also said that while the leaking roof could be repaired, flooding caused by the inmates was not preventable.
In March, sheriff’s department offices, with the exception of the investigative offices, were relocated to the Jail Annex. In August, the Unicoi County Commission approved a bid in the amount of $429,750 from Travis Chatman Construction for the construction and renovation needed for the relocation of the investigative offices and 911 center. At the same meeting, the commission also approved a bid from Davis Brothers Roofing for $82,221 to reroof the downtown jail facility. Work on that project is also under way.
Hensley reiterated Thursday that is important that the 911 center and investigative offices be located near his department’s administrative office.
“911 does a lot for us,” he said. “They enter all of our NCIC entries. It’s just an incredible amount of work they do for us, and it’s just a necessity that we keep them that way.”