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Work goes underground after jail demolition

South Boston News
The demolished jail site / August 02, 2018
Now that the old courthouse jail has come tumbling down, workers are pushing forward on the complicated process of stabilizing the building foundations.

Lynchburg civil engineering firm Hurt and Proffitt, Inc. is overseeing the work of filling the old underground fuel tank with sand, removing contaminated earth, replacing the foundations, and doing minor roadwork.

Interim County Administrator Dan Sleeper explained that the fuel tank located underneath the old jailhouse must be plugged with sand and the surrounding soil tested for contamination. If the ground has been polluted by leaking fuel oil — a likelihood, Sleeper said — workers will have to dig up and replace the contaminated soil.

Sleeper remembered the jail site fuel tank from his prior stint as administrator for Halifax County in the 1990s. “I’m the one who abandoned it 20 years ago,” he said. The old jail, connected to the courthouse, was torn down two weeks ago.

“We couldn’t take the tank then because there were buildings there and the jail was still active,” he explained.

The jail, unused ever since the Blue Ridge Regional Jail opened in Halifax, had to come down because, as Sleeper said, “You couldn’t use it for anything, and in order to get a new building the old jail had to come down.”

The new building, another three-story corner structure, will serve as office space for the courts. The reconstructed annex wing, running between the jail site and the main courthouse building, will include chambers for General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Hurt and Proffitt’s plan is to replace the roadbeds and rebuild the foundations on the jail building. They are laying a completely new foundation and placing new steel beams. That process forced them to address the problem of the underground storage tank.

According to Sleeper, the renovations are proceeding according to plan. “As far as I know it looks good on schedule,” he said. “They might even get ahead … Weather can mess you up big time, so you want a couple extra days.”

The foundations should be prepared by the end of September, and during October workers plan to erect steel for the first floor. “As the façade on the outside gets going, it will be spring before you see a building,” Sleeper said. He expected to see the finishing touches toward the end of May or the beginning of June.

“I don’t thing they’ll be in that building until fall of next year,” Sleeper said, referring to court officials who would be using the space where the jail previously stood.

As the replacement building rises, workers will be fixing the electrical and interior systems at the main courthouse.

Simultaneously with the courthouse renovations, Sleeper has begun to field proposals from architects interested in designing the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.

Sleeper said, “That’s [the CA office] a separate project. It’s not actually attached to the courthouse.”

He said of the proposals, “I just got them yesterday.”

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