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Plans developed to fix courthouse

JACKSON – Northampton County leaders and judicial officials are taking steps toward finding solutions to the issues plaguing the Northampton County Courthouse.

On Monday, County Manager Wayne Jenkins gave a report to the commissioners regarding moisture damage, security issues and bats that are present in the 150-year-old courthouse.

Meanwhile, a letter from Chief District Court Judge Alfred W. Kwasikpui has been sent to Commission Chair Robert Carter and Jenkins as well as to other county and judicial officials in order to convene a Facility and Security Committee, as recommended in the Rural Courts Commission’s report in March.

It was requested at the commissioners’ last meeting (July 21) that Jenkins research the issues after judicial officials along with Ford Heath, a Safety and Health Consultant with the Administration Office of North Carolina Courts brought their concerns before the board.

At that meeting, Heath described the conditions in the courthouse as the “worst” he had seen and offered a written estimate from wildlife and animal removal specialists, Truetech Incorporated in Marietta, Ga. The work (estimated to cost more than $19,000) would include the removal of the bats, prevent them from returning, remove guano (bat feces) from the attic and treat for parasites. A three year guarantee would be included on the work.

Jenkins reported his office had done research on bats, discovering several ways the creatures can be removed from a building and their mating habits.

He said the months of July and August are the mating season for bats. The animals tend to be more active during that time and those months are considered one of the worst times to try to remove bats from a dwelling.

Jenkins said the only source to pay for the removal of bats would be from the contingency line item in the county’s general fund. He noted the commissioners had budgeted $100,000 in that line item for emergencies.

Jenkins also researched Truetech and received positive responses from two companies (from Orangeburg, SC and Roberson County, NC), who had hired the company for pest removal.

A roofing company recently inspected the courthouse, but Jenkins said he has not seen the report yet. Architect Surapon Sujjavanich is also scheduled to do a full inspection of the roof with no cost to the county.

There are also plans for maintenance to the plaster. Jenkins said a company in Rich Square has been contacted regarding that issue.

Painting and the replacement of floor tiles, which was budgeted for in the 2008-09 general operating fund is still planned.

“We plan to use supervised inmate labor on the weekends,” said Jenkins in regards to the painting.

Jenkins reported he observed the courthouse as well.

“I personally spent time at the courthouse,” said Jenkins, referencing his monitoring the outside of the facility around dusk.

Jenkins said on the dark side of dusk, he saw what appeared to be either bats or chimney swallows. He said there are plans for Public Works to inspect the top of the building using lift equipment.

The commissioners commended Jenkins for his research.

“This board appreciates your effort,” said Carter.

Commission Vice Chair Fannie Greene asked Jenkins if lights were on in the attic to deter bats.

Jenkins responded that lights are left on continuously, but they do burn out.

He noted the remedies for the courthouse would not be a “forever, foolproof fix” and there would need to be continuous maintenance on the historic building.

Judge Kwasikpui’s letter invited county and judicial officials to attend the initial meeting of the Facility and Security Committee at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, August 19 in the Commissioner’s meeting room.

The committee was a recommendation of the Rural Courts Commission, which suggested the committee should consist of several officials from county and judicial offices.