Courthouse repair bill up another $120k

Published 11:09 am Friday, March 21, 2008

Commissioners say the total repair bill likely will climb further since they have not received estimates yet on some other recently discovered problems.

Commissioners on Monday approved change orders amounting to $119,643. They also received a report from architects regarding further issues discovered in the rear of the building&squo;s structure with unknown repair costs. Design work will have to be done to determine how to fix the most recent problems found.

Commissioners have increased the budget for the courthouse repair project from the initial $770,000 to $970,000. Commissioners agreed last year to contribute $1 million of the county&squo;s fund balance to pay for the courthouse repairs and will most likely go over that number because of more structural repairs that are needed.

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Ellen Harris of Harris Architects told commissioners that scheduled work on both the interior and exterior is going well. She said the exterior work should be completed in four to six weeks; the shutters are currently being painted and will arrive in a couple of weeks.

She also said that once Midwest Maintenance was hired and began construction &dquo;we started to find things.&dquo;

&dquo;The structure was found to be in far worse condition than we expected it to be,&dquo; she said.

She said the area under the floor is full of conduit and electrical items, most of which needs to be taken out.

Harris said contractors have found problems like a concrete block underneath a structure to hold it up. She said several walls had no support or joists below the wall.

&dquo;The area in the middle of the wall has a completely deteriorated beam that previous contractors covered up with brick,&dquo; she said. &dquo;Things were sort of propped back up and put back together.&dquo;

Harris said no one anticipated needed structural repairs to the rear of the building, but once the floor was removed, contractors saw they had some serious problems. One problem is conduit going through a wall through a hole punched in the wall, literally just hanging there. There are also many masonry repair problems.

Commissioners said Monday how thankful they are that no one has been injured, given the structural problems found in the courthouse.

&dquo;We need to thank the Lord the thing hasn&squo;t fallen down and hurt somebody,&dquo; said commissioner Ted Owens.

Owens said he was appalled when he looked at some of the problems recently, such as stucco covering up dirt and one place where literally half of a brick was serving as support.

Harris said luckily the courthouse was built properly the first time and that&squo;s probably the only reason it&squo;s still standing.

The historic 1859 courthouse is going through its second round of major renovations and repairs since 1999. The county has discovered since the last repairs that many jobs were not done correctly and problems with the first renovation quickly arose, such as new paint peeling off the outside of the courthouse soon after completion.

Commissioners have commented several times recently that they are pleased with the current contractors&squo; work. Midwest Maintenance works most Saturdays and Sundays in order to complete the job on schedule. The original schedule was for the work to be completed at the end of May. With the most recent change orders, contractors have asked for another 30 days to complete the project. The costs and schedule of the future repairs to the rear of the building are currently unknown.