Starting over

Published 11:09 am Tuesday, November 28, 2017

GATESVILLE – As work continues to renovate Gates County’s historic old courthouse, a major plan has developed in regards to the west wing of the 181-year-old facility.

After discussing several options of what to do with that particular portion of the building, the Gates County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to a plan that calls for the demolition of the west wing and rebuild it from the ground up.

At their regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 1, the Commissioners were presented with three options on the west wing.

Option one is for $379,752 includes all metal supports to support the roof on the west wing. Number two also keeps the current wing intact with major work to the roof at a price of $376,604. Option three recommends demolition and complete re-build for $361,005.81.

The project’s architectural firm, ClearScapes, recommended option one.

“I would like to see this done; since I became a Commissioner and started keeping up with this (project), the price has nearly doubled,” stated Billy Felton. “It seems like we’re being held hostage on this, but our old courthouse has been sitting over there all these years and I hate to say that it’s becoming an eyesore. Until we get something done, it’s going to stay that way.”

Felton added that he has fielded numerous inquiries from county citizens about the reason for saving such an old building.

“Many have said why not just tear it down and use the land as a parking lot,” Felton noted. “We have been presented a good plan on how we can re-purpose this building, and we need to realize this is one of the oldest courthouses left in the state.”

Felton added that the re-purpose plans are to use it to house some of the county government offices, to include the County Manager’s office and for use as a meeting area for the commissioners.

“And it has such a historical significance, especially with the Thad Eure Room,” Felton added, referencing the Gates County native who went on to serve the longest tenure in North Carolina as Secretary of State (1936-1989).

County Manager Natalie Rountree said there remains $164,872 in the project’s budget for renovations for the west wing.

“So that means we’ll need to come up with roughly $200,000 more (to complete that project),” said Commissioner Henry Jordan.

Board Chair Linda Hofler said a portion of the county’s funds needed to complete the west wing project could come through donations, particularly the Gates County Historical Society, of which she is the former president.

“Plus there are some potential grant funds we can apply for,” Hofler said.

“All these options look good, but I think number one is the highlight in my mind,” said Commissioner Ray Freeman, who then put that into a motion for approval of the $379,000 option.

Rountree mentioned that Edgar Mitchell, the county’s building inspector, may need to offer his opinion on the three options before the commissioners cast their vote.

“In construction your have three basic categories: meeting the requirements of the owner; budget; and schedule,” said Mitchell. “Leaving the roof there will appeal to two of the three of those. You might go with the owner option, and then something goes wrong and you tear down the roof anyway. Doing this from scratch means the contractor has all the control and you are aware of everything up front….what the schedule is and what the budget is. And with a new roof, you know it’s going to be done right and you will not expect to have future problems with that wing.

“To me, I can’t see any other correct option other than a complete tear-down and re-build,” Mitchell suggested.

Rountree added that she had checked with Reid Thomas of the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and he confirmed that tearing down and re-building the west wing did not present any problems in the historical aspect of the building, which was placed on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

With that, Freeman rescinded his first motion, and then offered a new one to approve option number three. That option was approved without objection.

There was not a timetable available of when that work will begin.

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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