Courthouse sustains rainwater damage

On Saturday, September 29, Sweetwater saw a downpour of much-needed rain. But as a result, the Nolan County Courthouse saw some extensive rainwater damage to their facilities and equipment. Each floor of the courthouse was affected by the rainwater that seeped into the building. The first floor saw damage in the east entrance and the northwest stairwell. The second floor stairwell window was affected, as well as the Assistant District Attorney's office--notably water damage to the printer, the District Clerk's office and the grand jury room, where ceiling tiles fell and crumbled to the ground from the incoming water. The third floor was impacted in the juvenile probation conference room and office, the southwest corner of the stairwell, and the west hall, with damage to the ceiling and wet floors. The third floor DHS office also had water coming in and accumulating. The open areas in the courthouse are the culmination of damage that occurred well over a year ago, when a marble slab--approximately 10 feet by 5 feet, weighing almost a ton--fell off of the courthouse and damaged part of the building on September 9, 2011. Since that time, much discussion and consideration of the courthouse reconstruction has taken place. In late October 2011, some granite squares were taken down to inspect and assess the damage of the courthouse building. The next month, at one of the public hearings regarding the outside of the courthouse--as well as the need for a county jail, the findings were discussed. What was discovered was that the attachments had deteriorated to this and several other panels. The decision was made to remove all of the granite panels, but they also needed to be weatherproofed, as they were not upon construction in 1977. Thus, the exterior has needed to be replaced through a remediation project on the Nolan County Courthouse. In January 2012, an architect was selected to work on the courthouse repairs and reconstruction--Wiginton Hooker and Jeffrey, with several meetings taking place in the following months to discuss and prepare for the project. At a meeting held in late March of this year, the conditions of the courthouse were discussed in detail between the commissioners and the architects. The original installation of the granite slabs proved to be problematic, resulting in the deterioration, which led to open spaces that trapped air and water. In addition, other conditions of the courthouse showed that some open areas led to water intrusion; wind pressure and further deterioration led to moisture and breakdown in some areas. An option was presented for repairs at this meeting for the courthouse. Thereafter, the process for selecting a construction manager at risk continued further. It was also during this time that some citizens began to voice their concern on whether a vote should take place for these repairs as well as the construction of a new jail. As the search continued to select a construction manager at risk, the intention of the county was to pay for the projects with certificates of obligation, in which the payment was approved in late May 2012. However, the idea of a bond election began to be heard to prevent the payment option; a timeline was presented that 5% of registered voters in the county would need to sign a petition by June 25 in order to block the certificates of obligation. At the latter June meeting of the county commissioners, it was determined that a petition of 446 signatures was enough to bring the construction projects to the voters in November (only 420 names were needed to meet the 5%). During that meeting, the bid for the projects was awarded to Turner Construction, but it was noted that the election would delay the projects anywhere from nine months to a year due to the timing of the vote. Though it was accepted in June, the bond election was formally approved in August, with the courthouse remediation as the first of three propositions, which was split due in part to the petition yet to better inform voters on both projects. The first proposition authorizes the issuance of general obligations in an amount not to exceed $4,020,000 to renovate and remediate the courthouse façade. As a result of the upcoming election, any potential work on the courthouse repairs has been halted, which have made the building susceptible to the elements of wind, heat and rain--with the latter proving detrimental to the county building. Terry Locklar, the county commissioner for Precinct 2, stated that he appreciates the dedication of the courthouse employees for taking time out of their weekend to clean up not only their own offices, but the offices of other county officials as well.