On This Day, 24 Years Ago 

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Polk County Looks Into Courthouse Renovation – Again 


There was a sense of deja vu Monday night when the board of commissioners began once again discussing the decaying state of the historic Polk County courthouse building. 

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The facility continues to deteriorate, escalating future renovation costs, but the board appears to balk at actually taking on the project. no one knows how to pay for it, yet everyone agrees it must be done, The enormity of the project may prove overwhelming, and there does not seem to a consensus on how to proceed. 


“Financially folks, this is going to come down to money and that’s why we keep putting it off,” Chairman Tim McCormack explained Monday. “Nobody wants to spend the king of money it’s going to take to do the job.” 


So, once again a committee will be formed and a study will be made. The board directed county manager Lane Bailey to draw up a Request For Proposals for architectural firms specializing in historic renovation. 


In January, during the board’s retreat, an architectural engineering firm presented the commissioners with a proposal for studying the courthouse renovation and suggesting a plan of action. The fee for that service was $22,000, along with $16,000 for facilities and site surveys to look at all the county’s office building needs. The firm detangled the possibility of a $1 million dollar pricetag for the courthouse renovation in front of the board. 


Previous capital facility reports have indicated the need for courthouse renovations on at least one occasion, and the need for more county office space has been discussed several times. All in all, the project has been talked about for more than two years. 


According to commissioner Sue Cochran, on a recent visit to the courthouse, she was able to put her hand between the floor and the wall, and was told that last year eight leaks in the steam pipes had been counted and were still not repaired. 


“All signs point to the fact that the sill has rotted away,” she stated, “And we’ve got the equivalent of a three-story building sitting atop a sill that‘s rotting, 


“I think we must move forward quickly and at the least decide if we’re going to keep the building or tear it down,” she continued. 


“If we’re going to keep it, at the very least we need to fix the sill and fix the steam pipes.” 


The board bantered back and forth over whether or not to make some immediate repairs or look into renovation the entire structure. 


McCormack advocated going ahead with the engineering study, but was also in favor of developing a “grand plan” which would include renovations to other county facilities, such as the Jervey Palmer Building, and prioritizing costly projects within the county. 


“We have the money in the capital fund, so let’s spend it,” he stated. “I think we need to go ahead and spend the money and get started.” 


Commissioner Jesse Foy was in agreement, stating, “If we’re going to fix it, let’s fix it all.” 


Be Cochran and Commissioner Benny Smith felt that some repairs needed to be made immediately, 


“The plaster has been falling down for at least four years that I know of,” Cochran said. “We don’t need and architectural engine to do that sort of thing, do we?” 


“Somebody is going to get hurt one of these days and we’ll have a lawsuit on our hands,” Smith concurred. “That clerks office is a shame and disgrace and it reflects badly on the county.” 


Becky Kennedy, an employee in the Clerk of Courts office described the precarious position of her desk to the board, stating, “one of these days the floor is going to fall away from the wall, and I’ll be sitting there in my desk.” 


During the recent Cecil Vs. General Motors case, plaintiff LaRhett Stuart, confined to a wheelchair, had to be carried up and down the staircase every times court was in session. Sheriffs deputies had to be summoned from across the street several times a day to assist Mr. Stuart. According to one commissioner, the judge presiding over the case threatened to have the county commissioners do the carrying. 


Once again Monday night the board discussed the need for an elevator and other modifications needed to bring the courthouse into compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications. 


At least one commissioner was uncomfortable with talk of discontinuing use of the courthouse in favor of a new office complex. 


“If we have the courthouse repaired, it would provide at least another 30 or 40 years of service,” Poe stated. “Frankly, I don’t even like to think about not using it.” 


~Joy Sharp February 27, 1995, Tryon Daily Bulletin