Jemison to unveil new municipal complex

Published 8:41 pm Friday, April 30, 2010

By Justin Averette

Jemison on Sunday will host a dedication ceremony for its new Municipal Complex, giving residents the chance to tour a facility officials said will allow them to better serve city residents.

The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. in the auditorium of the new 18,000-square-foot building, which is located adjacent to the old City Hall off Highway 31.

Attendees—who Mayor Eddie Reed said should arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled start time—will see a short presentation in the auditorium and a ribbon cutting at the front of the building, and then have the option of taking a guided tour. While residents are looking around, the band Stomps Hill will play in the auditorium, and refreshments will be served.

“It’s a building for the people of Jemison,” Reed said. “We feel like we need to give it first to God and then to the citizens of Jemison.”

Several officials said the city had simply outgrown City Hall.

The city purchased the empty ACE Hardware building, and accompanying land, after that business closed.

Part of the City Council’s decision to go ahead with the project was based on the city having more than $5,000 left from a bond issue for a sewer project.

If the money had not been used, the city would have had to pay it back.

“We just couldn’t pass the opportunity up,” Reed said. “It’s a tremendous investment for our city.”

Reed also said that the cost of renovating the building has yet to be determined but said money has been saved because city workers have completed most of the work.

Reed said four sub-contractors have been employed—for electrical, drywall, brick and floor work—and the rest of the work has been done by city employees.

The city’s vault, which houses record archives, was an example Reed gave of how the city has saved money. Reed said an estimate of $12,500 was received for the construction of a vault, but city workers completed the project for about $2,300.

The vault is also an example of why Jemison needed the new complex. Reed said space was being rented for storage of records, which the city is required by law to keep.

City Hall was built in 1959, when Jemison had one clerk and one police officer. Now, the city has three full-time clerks and at least four police officers on duty at any given time during the day.

Because the old facility was inadequate, Jemison’s Municipal Court was being held at the city’s fire station, and the library had been moved to a rented space next to a doctor’s office.

The Municipal Complex features ample room for the city’s current staff and for future growth. There is a drive-by window at the front of the building for residents paying their water bills, and the library is located just inside the front door—as is the courtroom and council chambers, which seats more than 50 people.

City Hall would have been busting at the seams with a crowd of 20.

Court clerks in the past would have to pack up business materials twice a month and head off to the fire station. Now, the city’s prosecutor will be able to, without leaving the courtroom, queue up video acquired by the police.

Also, because of a spacious parking lot, residents visiting the complex to do business will no longer have to back out onto a busy highway as was the case at City Hall.

The city’s police department now has two interview rooms, a supply room and an evidence locker, which, like the rest of the building, is under video surveillance.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that if you don’t give your officers the environment, the tools and the knowledge, then they can’t do what they’re supposed to do,” Police Chief Shane Fulmer said.

The department will also have a private entrance at the rear of the building.

“Before, it was just jammed up—there was just no professional way of doing things,” Reed said. “There were times when myself, the chief, we would have to give up our office so that the clerk or someone else could meet with someone in private. We were just too small.”

Perhaps the greatest asset to the city will be the complex’s auditorium, which features seating for as many as 400 people, a stage, a sound system and two pull down projection screens.

The auditorium can be rented for reunions, banquets and other gatherings. In fact, the auditorium is already close to being booked for the next three months.

Shannon Welch—who serves as the city’s purchasing agent and building inspector in addition to his role as assistant to the mayor—was the project manager.

“None of this could have happened without people like Shannon,” Reed said. “His imprint is on this building.”

Reed stressed that the city council was heavily involved in the project.

“I’ve always lived in Jemison and I’ve always been proud of Jemison, but I am really proud of Jemison now,” councilwoman Faye King said.