published Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Polk County officials inspect courthouse, justice center

By Paul Leach, Correspondent

BENTON, Tenn. -- The Polk County Building Committee reviewed a number of repair needs at the Polk County Courthouse and the justice center last week.

County Executive Hoyt Firestone led a top-to-bottom, inside-and-out tour of courthouse problems. He said windows are a major concern for the three-story building.

"We are probably losing 25 to 30 percent of our heat value through the windows," he said.

Firestone recommended installing energy-efficient storm windows, similar to those at the courthouse's east-side glass entrance that faces U.S. Highway 411.

He also pointed out sizable sections of brick that jutted out along many places of the building's exterior, especially on the western and southern facings. He said the problem is caused by surface water seeping between the interior walls and the bricks and mortar, and it is made worse by freezing conditions.

Firestone said the repair requires removing old mortar and resealing exteriors.

Chairman Isaac Bramblett and other committee members said they thought the repairs could prevent a potential safety problem in addition to maintaining the 1930s-era courthouse.

Firestone said several people have requested handrails for the outside stairs, and he agrees with them.

"Some people are struggling to get in," he said.

County Commissioner John Pippenger said another good idea would be to add yellow and white lines to stair edges.

Meanwhile, the Justice Center is experiencing problems with hot water.

That facility, which opened in November 2007, has suffered from erosion in a number of hot-water pipe joints, and personnel had to replace four heater modules between its two industrial-sized water heaters, according to a presentation given by Sheriff Bill Davis and Detective Joe Price.

The heater modules, essentially man-sized cylinders of copper tubes, have been covered under warranties until now, Davis said. They will cost $5,000 apiece, plus installation, from this point on, he said.

A hot-water system failure would leave more than 100 inmates in the cold when it comes to showers, laundry and cafeteria dishwashing.

Sheriff's office personnel said they believe a filtration system might solve the root problem, but the building committee recommended sampling the water first.

Bramblett advised the building committee to bring the requests to the County Commission to determine if, how and when the projects can be funded.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. E-mail him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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