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HC Courthouse space debated

WINTON – Hertford County Commissioners continued discussing the logistics of the new courthouse here Monday morning.

During their regularly scheduled meeting, the county leaders talked at length about the new three-story facility that is in the schematic design phase at the moment. Last month, the board learned they would have to add a partial third floor to accommodate Child Support Enforcement and some changes to the judicial suite.

The increased size led to discussion about whether or not to add a half story or the full story, even though the entire space may not be needed at the moment. That discussion was picked up Monday.

Glenn Ware of Ware Bonsall Architects Inc. appeared before the board to present the schematic design and receive authorization for a change in services.

Ware reported that the timeline for the project was moving forward with the board currently in the schematic design phase which would give way to the design development and construction document phase in the coming weeks. Ultimately, the building is set for occupation by the county in April of 2013.

Commission Chairman Johnnie Ray Farmer said he had a couple of questions about the building. The first was the large number of 100 square foot rooms.

“That’s a 10 by 10 office,” Farmer said. “Is that sufficient?”

Ware said there were several standards for office space and a 10 by 10 space would be one of those standards and that it would be adequate for the people who were using them.

Farmer then asked about the flat roof.

“We have a flat roof on the jail, on the courthouse and this building (administration) and they all have issues,” Farmer said. “Why is this roof going to be better?”

Ware said they were proposing a membrane roof which would also be sloped slightly for drainage purposes and he thought it would work well. Prompted by another question from Farmer, he added that a 20-year or 30-year warranty could be acquired.

“That’s a concern, because it is one of the main reasons we need a new courthouse,” Farmer said. “I won’t be here to see it, but I would hate for members of this board to be sitting here in 30 years talking about needing a new roof on the courthouse.”

Farmer then added that he wanted to make sure there was the appropriate amount of space provided for the new building.

“I would hate in 2013 to turn the key and need more space,” he said. “I hope we will do it right the first time. I want to make sure we are planning so that we don’t have hindsight that should have been foresight.”

Ware said those discussions had taken place and they were being considered as the plan was developed.

“It brings me some comfort that you have planned for growth,” Farmer said.

Commission Vice Chairman Curtis Freeman asked if there were drawbacks to extending the partial third story across to make it a full third story.

Ware said it could be filled out with unfinished space which would require some electricity and ventilation, but not ceilings or other fixtures and could be done at approximately half the cost of finishing it.

At a cost of approximately $80 per square foot for the 9,000 square foot space, it would cost the county an additional $720,000.

Hertford County Manager Loria D. Williams said she has been noncommittal about the space and reminded the board that to finish the 9,000 square foot addition it would cost twice that figure.

Commissioner Ronald Gatling asked at what point the board needed to make a decision and Ware said the sooner the better.

“If you know you want to do it, we should do it now,” he said.

The architect added that the extra space could be bid as an add-on, giving the board a firm price that they could either decide to spend or not.

Commissioner Bill Mitchell said Halifax County built a third floor that was unfinished in their courthouse building and currently had need of the space.

“Right now $720,000 seems like a lot, but you are already building everything below it,” he said. “I think we should go ahead and do it.”

Commissioner Howard J. Hunter III agreed.

“It is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” Hunter said. “It will cost us more if we end up having to do it later. We have a lot of decisions to make.”

Williams said the staff had already had the opportunity to give their space needs and that the planning committee had left space for growth over the next 10 years.  She added that all the departments were satisfied with the space provided.

Register of Deeds Kathleen Wright, who serves on the courthouse committee, said she also believed the space already provided was sufficient.

“If we don’t need the other space, we might need to hold off,” she said.

Gatling said that he didn’t want to give people something they didn’t need.

Farmer then explained he understood that Williams was looking at the overall picture.

“We have to pay for this thing and anything we add increases our debt payments,” he said.

The board then adopted the schematic design and approved an increase in architecture fees due to adding the third floor.

The current layout of the courthouse is set to cost the county just over $7.1 million.