Note: This story was updated at 12:50 p.m.
Anderson County officials are taking steps to move General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge from a privately owned building on Bus Terminal Road to a county-owned building on Emory Valley Road.
An 18-month lease on the current privately owned building, where the court has been since 2009, expires in June, officials said Wednesday.
Renovations are planned at the county-owned building on Emory Valley Road before the court moves there. Bid packages for the renovation work could go out to contractors this week, and the bid could be awarded in mid-April, said Anderson County Commissioner Phil Yager, one of two commissioners who represent District 8 in Oak Ridge.
The renovation work could take two to three months, Yager said. Michael Brady Inc., a Knoxville architectural firm helping Anderson County, has estimated the renovations could cost around $300,000.
But it’s not clear if the renovation work will be completed before the current lease on the Bus Terminal Road building expires in June.
On Monday, in a move that could help “buy time,” Anderson County Commission voted 13-0 to renegotiate a monthly lease of $4,500 per month for up to 36 months on the Bus Terminal Road building. The lease would be renegotiated with Tony Cappiello, president of Vintage Development Corporation, which owns the Bus Terminal Road building.
On Wednesday, Yager said the county has received three offers from Cappiello: a month-to-month lease under the current conditions at the current monthly rate of $5,500; a three-year lease under the current conditions at $4,500 per month; or a sale of the building between a low of $700,000 and a high of $800,000, depending upon its appraised value. It’s not clear which of those options the Anderson County Commission might prefer, or if they would make a counter-offer if it appears the court can’t move to Emory Valley Road before the end of June.
Anderson County commissioners who spoke Monday and Wednesday, including Chair Steve Emert, generally said they are in favor of keeping the General Sessions Court, Division II, in Oak Ridge. Commissioners mostly seemed to favor moving to the county-owned building on Emory Valley Road.
Commissioners, including Steve Mead of District 6 in Oak Ridge, pointed out that the county is paying $5,500 per month under the current lease, plus another $800 per month in taxes and insurance, in addition to maintenance costs. Commissioners—including Emert, Mead, and Yager—suggested the county could pay off the renovations costs at the county-owned building on Emory Valley Road relatively quickly, within several years, through the money they would save on rent and other costs at the Bus Terminal Road building. They also mentioned $30,000 that the City of Oak Ridge said it would reinstate in a remodeling budget for the General Sessions Court.
But Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank said she doesn’t think it makes sense to have an Oak Ridge court, at least not in its current form. Frank cited cost concerns, including the distance that must be traveled from Clinton to Oak Ridge, the additional court staff, and inmate transportation and security.
Yager said the renovation work at the Emory Valley Road building would remodel the area where the Oak Ridge Senior Center used to be (the Senior Center moved to the Oak Ridge Civic Center earlier this year). The renovation would provide more room for county court records, Yager said.
Emory Valley Center uses part of the county-owned building, but it is building a new structure across the street and is consolidating its space in the county-owned building, Yager said.
United Way of Anderson County is moving into the county-owned building, where it will take three of the current Emory Valley Center offices.
The county-owned building continues to house office space for the Anderson County Clerk and Anderson County Trustee.
The Anderson County Commission agreed to the 18-month lease for the General Sessions Court space on Bus Terminal Road in December 2015, when the previous seven-year lease expired. The 18-month lease was expected to keep the courthouse at its current home until mid-2017, giving county officials time to consider where to locate the General Sessions Court, Division II.
The courthouse is used by police officers in Oak Ridge, Oliver Springs, and Rocky Top, among other agencies and businesses.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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