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ONWARDS AND UPWARDS

Warren County waits and watches as work on Justice Center continues

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Warren County waits and watches as work on Justice Center continues

When the Warren County Justice Center turns purple later this year, don’t freak out. It won’t stay that way.

“You’ll start to see sheathing on these studs. It’s probably purple,” said Nick Bruck of DCI Group, the general contractor on the project. “Don’t be alarmed, that’s not what the building will end up looking like. That’s just one layer of the cake.”

Work on the 84,000-square-foot facility is heading toward a March 2022 finish line, with workers right now wrapping up the inside layer of the cake — starting on the north side to finish the steel frame of the facility and moving clockwise around the building, and pouring slabs of concrete for floors.

Layers of purple drywall, blue exterior and then insulation will adorn the outside of the facility as crews hustle to complete as much work as possible before temperatures drop too significantly.

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The entrance of the new Warren County Justice Center will face North Howard Street, on the east side of the building. The masonry next to the orange ladder will be the public elevator. The lower level of the building will include the clerk of courts offices with two courtrooms on each level of the building.

Work on the building is moving forward is quadrants, Bruck explained. One quadrant on the second floor of the north side will be the jail, which will house as many as 80 prisoners and is identifiable by its very high ceiling, said Bruck.

The sheriff and kitchen facilities will share the next quadrant is the first floor of the north side. Supervisors still have to decide whether the kitchen will be equipped to serve just inmates or also to supply congregate meal sites around the county.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors last week set a public hearing for 6:25 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 15, to discuss the food service equipment scope.

On the south side the county attorney’s office and two courtrooms are a quadrant on the second floor. Two more courtrooms and the clerk of court’s offices on the first floor are the final quadrant.

“This level and that level are really the same,” Bruck said. “It's courtrooms and courtrooms and office space and office space. There's a little bit of duplicity between the second and first floors.”

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The lobby and front entrance of the new Warren County Justice Center will face the east side of the Indianola Square. On the right is the shaft for the public elevator. On the left, the door will lead to a stairwell that goes downstairs to the emergency management department.

Workers are not working in all of those areas at the same time, Bruck said.

“Basically we're going to start and work top down, and then kind of out the door,” he explained. “And what I mean by out the door is the lobby is essentially last.”

The public entrance and lobby will face Howard Street, on the building’s east side.

Right now, there’s little difference between the jail and the rest of the building. Finishing the jail, though, will be “unique,” said Bruck.

Later this winter, workers will build a scaffold tower on the Howard side of the building and bring in the cell modules — steel boxes — on flatbed trucks. They’ll be lifted by crane up the scaffold and into the second-story jail area, he said.

“It’s kind of like moving furniture, just really heavy furniture,” said Bruck. “They’ll put dollies underneath them and roll them into the building and set them.”

Mike Lewis of Shive Hattery Architects and Engineers said the 8-foot modules will weigh about 5,000 pounds each and will be stacked two high in the 24-foot-high space.

Once the building is finished, elevators will take prisoners from the jail to the basement, where they will cross to the courts side of the building, out of public view. There, another elevator will take them to secure holding areas on the first and second floors for court appearances.

The spaces on the jail side will feel very different from spaces on the courts side, added Bruck.

“Anywhere an inmate is, it’s very institutional looking. It’s block walls, steel walls, hard finishes,” he said. “Office spaces are going to look like office spaces. Courtrooms are going to look more judicial.”

The basement on the jail side of the building will include the booking area, where officers will be able to pull in and take prisoners into the building before pulling back out. The basement on the north side also will house emergency management services, Bruck explained.

“The walls down there are all solid block walls,” he said. “The work downstairs is much different than the courtrooms.”

Another 4,000 square feet of “shell space” on the court’s side of the basement will get minimal utilities but won’t be finished until the county eventually needs the space.

Work this year will continue into winter until it’s “unbearable,” said Bruck. “Or too windy.”

Inside, workers will start running mechanical ductwork and piping in late January. By the end of January, the roof will go on and inside work will continue.

“By April 1 it will start to have the final exterior finish on it,” he said. By late spring or early summer studs, drywall and paint will start to be done inside.

Bruck said the project is running on schedule so far.

By fall of 2021, or maybe earlier, supervisors will have to decide where to place sidewalks and landscaping so anything not covered in concrete can be seeded or have sod laid. The black construction fence will disappear in the fall or perhaps earlier and residents will be able to see what the 84,000-square foot justice center is really going to look like, Bruck said.

“Next year at this time, this site will look like it’s done.”

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