Courthouse renovation proceeding slowly

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Published: February 9,2010

Tags: construction, renovation

PURVIS — Step-by-step, the long-term, $4-million project to restore the historic Lamar County courthouse to its once stately status is moving forward.

Recently, the three-story structure was poked, prodded and probed by a group led by historical architect Robert Parker Adams to assess the building’s roots before asbestos removal and interior demolition begins.

“It was about what we can do, what we can’t do and what we can salvage,” County Administrator Chuck Bennett said.

Bennett said county work crews will complete in February the removal of the last bit of scattered equipment, tape machines, phones and faxes, law books, weathered tables and scarred chairs.

The county is looking at not only what to save from the various rooms and storage spaces throughout the courthouse, but what can be salvaged of the rooms and spaces.

While that sorting proceeds, Bennett said the county will write up specifications for asbestos removal, a $40,000 project that is expected to be bid this spring. Bennett said that work could take from one to three months to complete.

“Sometime in March, which is right around the corner, we’ll be looking at drawing up the (proposal),” Bennett said. “We have a (study) that we had to do to find out where the asbestos was, so we’ll ask (bidders) to read the report, give them the scope of the work, and then we’ll take quotes.”

Once that’s completed, interior demolition can begin, which will remove the likes of drop ceilings, fake walls and other modern-day additions.

Bennett said the county had spent about $110,000 on the project since 2006, and has budgeted $275,000 toward the courthouse for fiscal year 2009-10.

Bennett and the county have advocated a pay-as-you-go approach, so the cost will not be quite as hefty when the price tag for the major renovations comes due.

The county already has been approved for a $200,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency mitigation grant that would pay 95 percent of the cost of new windows and other areas of weatherproofing.

Another potential funding area is a Community Development Block Grant, which would help cover the costs of refurbishing “common use” areas of the courthouse, such as elevators, stairways, restrooms and entrances.

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