Polk courthouse renovations complete

Published 1:43 pm Friday, July 18, 2008

Officials say employees will begin moving back into the building this week.

The latest courthouse renovation project, involving major&bsp; structural repairs to the cupola and other areas, began about a year and a half ago. The project is estimated to have cost $1.2 million.

The Polk County Clerk of Courts office relocated to the county&squo;s former library building during the courthouse repairs. That office and the district attorney&squo;s office will move back to the courthouse beginning on Thursday.

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This will be the fourth time the clerk of courts office has moved since 1998: twice for this renovation and twice during a previous restoration that occurred in 1999. Much of the latest renovation project was done to repair work done improperly or not completed during the previous renovation.

The first court session in the renovated courthouse could be held as early as July 22 if the move is completed by then. The next date could be superior court the week of July 28.

The jury trial of Polk County Sheriff Chris Abril, set for the week of Aug. 4, will definitely be in the courthouse, officials say. Abril is facing charges of statutory rape and sexual offense of a child stemming from incidents allegedly occurring in the late 1980s. Abril was charged in 2006 after signing up to run for sheriff.

Court sessions in the renovated courtroom will be the first held there since June, 2004. Engineers surveying the courthouse closed the courtroom and the rest of the second floor of the building after deeming it unsafe for use. Since then, court has been held in the upstairs meeting room of the Womack building across the street, with some occasions when court was held in the Columbus Fire Department.

Structurally, the 1859 courthouse is said to be in much better shape now. In addition to the planned work, Harris Architects also fixed unforeseen problems that were discovered once the floor was taken up, especially in the rear of the building. Architects came to commissioners&squo; meetings on many occasions to ask for change orders, but despite the problems, the project was extended only one month.

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson says he is extremely happy with the contractors, Midwest Maintenance and Harris Architects, and the project manager, Cecil Cannon. Progressive Contracting Company did repairs to the cupola.

&dquo;I am very pleased how it turned out,&dquo; Whitson said.