Funds needed to advance courthouse project

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, February 5, 2013

GATESVILLE – Following a progress report given here late last month on phase one of the old courthouse rehabilitation project, it appears the table is set to move to phase two.

However, before that can occur, those close to the ongoing effort to save the aging structure stress the need of ensuring funds are in place prior to advancing the project to the next level.

At the Jan. 23 scheduled meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, Jon Zellweger of ClearScapes Architects, the firm under contract by the county to handle the old courthouse project, gave a status report.

“I believe the presentation was well received by all who attended,” said Henry Jordan, Commission Chairman and also the moderator of the Old Courthouse Advisory Committee. “There seems to be a readiness to move forward into Phase II, but there are foundational milestones the committee needs to achieve and establish prior to approaching the Commissioners with any type recommendation on moving forward into phase two.”

Jordan said that committee is scheduled to meet again on Feb. 6, where he stated one of the major topics of discussion will involve the establishment of the Old Courthouse Restoration Fund.

“We need to solicit funds from donors; patrons willing to give in exchange for recognition certificates, plaques, engravings, etc.  We need to nominate/appoint a treasurer for the committee to handle finances that will be coming in, and work with the County’s Finance Director in setting up an account that can acknowledge tax deductible gifts.

“As was pointed out by Helen Ruth (of ClearScapes), the committee needs to have some skin in the game in order to be taken seriously by outside funders/investors, and even by the Commissioners,” Jordan added. “So, we envision the Feb. 6 meeting as being one of brainstorming and networking to try to establish the Old Courthouse Restoration Fund, therefore, it would probably be better if the committee held this meeting without ClearScapes attendance.”

Jordan said the committee will hopefully be prepared to make a recommendation to the Commissioners by the March 6 meeting of that board.

“We would hope that ClearScapes can be available for the March 6 Commissioners’ meeting to assist with any technical or professional discussions that may be necessary to satisfy or alleviate any concerns that may come up,” Jordan said.

Phase one of the old courthouse project comes with a $33,800 fee by ClearScapes, a price that includes  determining the existing conditions of the building, a structural assessment and studies related to potential new uses and summarizing potential funding sources.

Phase two ($36,200 fee) details the selection of the re-use, schematic design, tax credit/grant applications and documents and administration for structural repairs. The final phase is the actual repairs to the building. That repair/construction phase is estimated in the $2.5 million range. The total project budget is in the range of $2.75 million to $3.2 million.

It was at their Oct. 5, 2011 meeting where the commissioners formally launched an effort to restore the local landmark. The late Federal style courthouse, completed in 1836, is showing its age with cracks to the foundation as well as work needed inside. It is one of a small number of ante-bellum courthouses remaining in the state and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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