At their Friday, February 9 meeting, the Morgan County Commission approved a demolition bid for the county courthouse. The courthouse was destroyed in an August 8 fire.
A $346,865 bid from United Wreckers and Excavators, Inc. of Martinsburg was unanimously approved. The bid total includes a $9,000 alternate bid for preserving and removing the front entrance to the courthouse. The company will demolish the courthouse and its surrounding buildings, remove building contents and prepare the site for construction.
The County Commissioners had discussed preserving the courthouse entrance so it could be incorporated in the future courthouse design.
The Morgan County Commission received only one demolition bid for the courthouse. Some four contractors took bid packets at the pre-bid meeting. One contractor was unable to get their bid documents ready in time.
The contract with United Wreckers and Excavators was prepared and submitted to contractor Joseph N. (Nick) Dugan. Dugan said that he wouldn't know if preserving the entranceway was possible until they were doing the work.
Dugan had a professional stonemason that works with granite look at the courthouse. The stonemason believed that maybe the entranceway could be saved, Dugan said.
"I wouldn't want to say it wouldn't break," said Dugan.
Dugan offered to let the county have all the bricks they can handle as part of the demolition deal. They agreed on a tandem load, which would be hauled to the old landfill where some 1,000-2,000 bricks are now stored. Once torn down, the courthouse entranceway would probably be delivered to U.S. Silica land to join the courthouse bell tower.
Demolition time frame
The contract allows Dugan's company 140 days to complete the work on the courthouse. Work will begin as soon as the contract is finalized. Removing all the items from the courthouse and cleaning the site would take weeks, Dugan expected. Saving the entranceway would also take a while. Weather is also a factor.
Dugan couldn't project a completion date for the project. He estimated that the demolition itself could take around 10 weeks with a couple of weeks for excavation, if snow didn't hold them up. The fill work could also be delayed by rain, he said.
Some have expressed interest in acquiring specific items from the courthouse. If interested, call the United Wreckers and Excavators, Inc. office at 304-754-8072 or Steve LeBre at 304-283-2147 or 304-262-4279.
Financial firm hired
The Morgan County Commission voted to enlist the services of the investment banking firm Crews and Associates to help them look at funding options for the construction of the new courthouse. Funding avenues could include revenue bonds or a bond election.
County Commissioner Glen Stotler said that he had never done a bond issue and suggested the firm's assistance. Stotler has had a 20-year working relationship with Chuck Steele of Crews and Associates, who has helped the county with other financial matters over the years.
Crews and Associates has a corporate headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, but the firm also has a satellite office in Charleston.
County Commissioner Tommy Swaim said that he was aware of Steele and his firm's track record with the county.
"I think it's a smart move," said Swaim.
County Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson made the motion to engage the investment banking firm to underwrite any revenue bonds and Swaim seconded the motion.
Hutchinson noted in her motion that the company would not be paid until the county actually issued revenue bonds. Stotler concurred, saying that the negotiations wouldn't cost the county anything unless it proceeded with a revenue bond.