Courthouse Restoration Update
On April 8th, the Board of Commissioners approved the program and funding to move forward with this phase of rehabilitating the Historic Butts County Courthouse, choosing to go with the mid-tier Option 2.
The first option addressed the most critical components of the project, including:
• Demolition Work
• Total Electrical System Replacement
• Fire Suppression System
• Elevator System
• First Floor Only Finishes
The second option that we chose includes the complete installation of all of the above plus:
• Complete HVAC system for 18k square feet
In their motion, the Commission included funding from multiple non-property tax sources, cited below from the minutes of Board of Commissioner’s Meeting:
“Following the earlier presentation on the Historic Butts County Courthouse and the recommendation for funding needed repairs and rehabilitation, staff recommended funding the project with the second option presented, to include demolition, electrical, sprinklers, elevator, plumbing, first floor finishes and HVAC, at a budget of $2,975,521.00. Funding for the project will consist of 1). Bonded 2019 SPLOST funds specifically earmarked for this project; 2). Unbonded SPLOST 2019 funds specifically designated for building repairs/renovations/rehabilitations; 3). Funding from additional landfill fees. Additionally, some items not in this scope of work such as door fabrication and replacement can be paid for from the Courthouse Maintenance and Improvement Fund”.
Status: Mr. Brown moved to approve the program, seconded by Mr. Crumbley with unanimous consent, 4-0.
This means that all of the most critical needs of the building will be addressed this time around, bringing the building as close to being up to modern code as a historic building can be made without changing or damaging its historical character.
The first, most critical need that the building has, the one that would have to be addressed no matter what else was done, is replacing the electrical system. There are components of the building that are still being powered by original wiring installed in 1911, when electricity was first put in the building. Over the years, new wiring components and power distribution systems have been added on top of existing ones, resulting in a hodgepodge of wiring that has become dangerous to the safety and security of the building. This will be the most expensive component to replace but it is the one most urgently needed. The contractors have noted that it is the worst one they have ever dealt with.
Probably the next most critical need is to replace the existing elevator, which was not designed for commercial use and is failing and outside of code. A new, modern commercial elevator would be installed within the same general area as the existing one, utilizing as much of the previous construction work as possible so as to be the least invasive to the existing building design.
Following these two critical priorities are new plumbing and bathroom accommodations, water distribution and a fire suppression system (sprinklers). If we learned anything this week from the devastating fire of Notre Dame Cathedral, it is that old buildings are highly susceptible to fire and having a fire suppression system in place not only can prevent a fire from spreading until fire services arrive but it can prevent total destruction of a valuable asset.
Additionally, this mid-tier option includes a complete heating and air conditioning system using the modern VRF type. This is the most efficient and advanced type of heating and air-conditioning system currently available for this type of building and it removes the need to run extensive ductwork all over the structure as it relies on piping refrigerant to various climate distribution systems instead. We feel this will actually be a tremendous advantage, because keeping an old building at a more stable temperature year round and dehumidified properly will be beneficial for the building and its materials (plus it eliminates several window air conditioners that have contributed to the deterioration of the building).
Finally, the main floor where the public enters now would be refinished and refurbished and will be beautiful and welcoming when it is completed. It will look very much the way the building originally looked before things were done to it that changed its character and design. Although we do not have funds budgeted for some aesthetic things such as replacing the grocery store doors on the building with re-fabricated wooden doors as per the original design, there are other funding mechanisms that we intend to look at that hopefully will raise additional monies to pay for these type of non-critical items as separate projects, ones that perhaps the community may want to get involved in.
Now that the contractor and the architect have a clear direction of what the scope of work will be, they can finalize schematic design plans to begin the restoration process this summer. Our future tenants are already excited about and looking forward to moving into the Historic Courthouse and contributing towards community development, economic vitality and tourism product development for Butts County.
We look forward to sharing the progress of this important project with you as new developments and milestones occur!