Study reveals courthouse flaws

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 9, 2007

WINTON – The Hertford County Courthouse is in dire condition.

While the fact has been obvious for years and been increasingly a topic of conversation in recent months, the facts were laid out before the Hertford County Commissioners in a letter from Glenn Johnson Ware.

Ware, the Managing Principal of Warebonsall Architects, took a tour of the structure Thursday, January 25 and sent a letter to County Manager Loria D. Williams outlining the conditions and functionality of the building.

“I’m not sure I’m in a position to make a recommendation concerning the courthouse,” Williams told the board Monday morning at their regular scheduled meeting.

She then told the board she was continuing study on the building and brought their attention to the letter by Ware.

In the letter, Ware brought up points he said should be major concerns of the county.

They included:

* major cracking of interior and exterior walls which indicate possible foundation problems;

* handicap accessibility deficiencies;

* evidence of numerous roof leaks staining ceiling and damaging walks, evidence of water damage to wood paneling from heating system;

* evidence of termite damage at millwork in the Superior Courtroom;

* public seating in the Superior Courtroom damaged and extremely worn;

* power and lighting inadequacies;

* security concerns;

* roof appears severely deteriorated;

* gutters and downspouts clogged and damaged;

* floor tile throughout original building possibly contains asbestos;

* a musty odor in the record vaults as well as other areas of the building indicating poor ventilation; and

* functionality issues.

“In my opinion, the building is in need of substantial improvement if the county desires to continue to maintain and use it,” Ware wrote.

He recommended the county initiate a needs assessment study to determine future case load, personnel and space needs, options for accommodating project needs and cost comparisons of building a new facility or renovating and expanding the current courthouse.

“From that assessment, we will do our building program,” Williams told the board.

She added the board would have to define needs and then move forward with cost assessment and planning.

Board Chairman Curtis A. Freeman brought the governing body’s attention to a flyer he passed around concerning the Camden County Courthouse where bricks were sold to help with the cost of the facility.

“It may be something for us to look into, but it is only for your information at this point,” Freeman said.

Commissioner Johnnie R. Farmer said he had been waiting to bring up the point, but said he wanted to see a different type of structure built if a new courthouse was to be erected.

“We have some history in this county and I hope we can build a courthouse that reflects that,” he said.

Freeman recorded his agreement that if a new facility was built, he would like to see something that would preserve the history, including the possibility of incorporating the safe from Register of Deeds Kathleen Wright’s office into the new facility.

Williams said she felt it was important for the board to realize that in the discussion of the future, there was a practical issue still at hand for the short-term.

She said the most prominent need at the current structure was the roof, but there was little left of the original roof and almost nothing left for patching to adhere to.

“If you try to patch that roof, you are almost throwing good money after bad,” she stressed. “It would be very costly to solve the problem at hand. We’ll do the best we can, but we have to seriously look at the future before we go too far.”

Freeman said he didn’t see any rationale in spending $60 to $70,000 on a new roof if there were to be major renovations on the current structure or build a new one.

“If we make the decision, what we have to do is put buckets under leak spots for now and move forward,” he said.

A future story will detail the board’s conversation about possible financing and the county’s debt-service position which was brought up by Williams.