New county complex estimated at $11 mil
The cost estimate for building a new Morgan County Courthouse complex is $11 million. The price estimate is dependent upon whether construction is begun in 2008.
Principal architect Tom Potts of Silling Associates/Architects in Charleston estimated that the new courthouse complex would need approximately 33,000 square feet of space. The existing courthouse is around 22,000 square feet minus the Sheriff's Law Offices.
The cost estimate of $11 million includes building a 2,400 square foot addition to house the Sheriff's Law Offices at the Morgan County Rescue Squad, where they are presently located.
Some 40% additional square footage was added to the existing square footage to allow for future growth, said Morgan County Commissioner Glen Stotler.
According to preliminary plans, the new Morgan County Courthouse complex will house the county administrative offices, the judicial system including Magistrate Court, Circuit Court, Family Court and Probation Office the offices of the Circuit Clerk and County Clerk, the Assessor's Office and the Sheriff's Tax Offices as well as storage areas, said Commissioner Tommy Swaim.
The County Commission Offices and Planning Offices will be moved into what is now the Magistrate Court building. It won't take much renovation to turn the building into offices and it can all be done in-house, Stotler said.
All county courts will be moved into the new courthouse once it is completed. These decisions were made mostly to keep the courts in the same building complex since they need more security, said Stotler.
New courthouse in 2009?
It was hoped that construction of the new Morgan County Courthouse complex could begin by 2008, if not sooner, if the design and funding are in place, said Stotler.
The commissioners are hoping that the Legislature will help with funding to rebuild the county courthouse, he said. The commissioners are planning to meet with legislators soon.
Stotler felt that having a new courthouse by 2009 was realistic. Swaim thought a completion date of late 2009 for construction was more accurate. While the county was moving pretty quickly on the demolition, problems often come up during the construction process, he said.
Demolition bid schedule
The bid process for the demolition of the Morgan County Courthouse will begin this week with advertisements being placed in area newspapers today.
A pre-bid meeting for potential contractors is set for Wednesday, January 24. The bid deadline will be Wednesday, February 8 at 3 p.m. The bid opening date before the Morgan County Commissioners will be Thursday, February 9 at 10 a.m. The location will be later announced.
The company that is awarded the demolition contract will demolish and remove the existing courthouse and prepare the site for construction.
Preserving part of history
At their Tuesday, January 2 and Friday, January 5 meetings, the Morgan County Commission discussed reserving the right in the demolition bids to keep a piece of the courthouse, possibly the entranceway or part of a wall, that could be preserved within the new building.
Stotler spoke of how a brick wall from the old airport terminal in Berkeley County had been saved as a memorial wall in the lobby at the new airport terminal.
Swaim was concerned about adding another $100,000 to the demolition cost with salvaging bricks to put in the new courthouse because they would have to be handpicked. Some bricks had already been saved, he noted.
Part of what a company gets with the demolition contract is whatever is salvageable from the exterior and interior of the building, Stotler said. Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson suggested reserving the option of keeping a piece of the courthouse and then looking at the cost. The commissioners decided to address the issue with the architect and preserve some of the brick if feasible.
Former Commissioner Bob Ford advised that two bid proposals could be submitted, a regular bid and an alternate bid that included preserving a piece of the courthouse. He also recommended seeing what it would cost to restore the entranceway.
Historical marker, clock
Hutchinson asked if there was a cornerstone of the courthouse that could be saved. Swaim and Stotler said they had never found it. A historical marker indicating the site's elevation was buried in the concrete to the left of the steps, said Stotler. The marker indicates a 612-foot elevation and was placed there in 1947, said Swaim.
John Webster noted that it was a federal marker. He said that the United States Geological Service would need to be contacted before it was moved.
The courthouse clock, which was made around 1907, is all burned out inside and a charcoal shell, said Swaim. Stotler didn't know if it could be restored and used again. It may be too costly to restore, he noted. It may be possible to salvage it and mount it on a gazebo somewhere as a historical piece, he said.
The Morgan County Commissioners will present their plans for the construction of the new courthouse, funding sources and the layout of county offices at a public meeting, which has been scheduled for Tuesday, January 23 at 7 p.m. The meeting location is still being determined.
They will also discuss the architect's needs assessment of the various county offices that will be housed in the new courthouse complex.
Citizens will be welcome to share their ideas on the courthouse design and any other feedback on the new courthouse complex at the meeting, said Stotler.