Courthouse Renovation Update

Over the years, the need of additional security for the courts has drastically increased. Not only do news stories from across the nation reflect this need, but the nature of decisions made by courts demand higher security. Think about the kinds of rulings made by circuit and district court judges. Their decisions often involve custody of children, jail or prison time, fines, and other extreme measures. During the judicial process, people can become desperate, hopeless, angry, and willing to commit acts of violence.

In deciding how to increase security of the courthouse, many factors were taken into account. Engineers and law enforcement professionals offered recommendations, and the existing courthouse building was thoroughly evaluated. There are sufficient high definition security cameras in and around the building. However, there are many entrances to the building, which is the highest concern of the security team. It was built during the 1950s, when almost every county department, including the jail and Board of Education, was housed in the building. It was built for access, and has many more entrance points than modern buildings.

Reducing the number of entrances to a single point for public and a single point for employees was the first objective. Since the public entrance must be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it became necessary to construct a new handicap ramp at the chosen entrance. The most feasible location for this ramp is the front entrance, facing Highway 75, so that is the chosen point for public access. There is already a handicap ramp at one of the back entrances, so it is the chosen entrance for employee access.

In addition to the handicap ramp, patrons must be able to park and get from their car to the entrance in by means that are handicap accessible. This requires a few upgrades to sidewalks around the building, which are also part of the project. These changes were planned in a way that does not reduce the existing number of parking spaces.

Additional needs include electric strike door locks, including some inside the building, and construction of a couple new doors within the building. A federal grant was awarded to the county, which will cover most of the cost of the part of the project.

After planning, the county was required to accept bids for the construction portion, per the state bid law. The lowest responsible bidder was awarded the contract, and began construction earlier this year. The contract included specifications, a scheduled completion date, and a bond requirement.

A few months later, it became necessary to for the commission to terminate the agreement due to breach of contract. The contractor’s bond was called to protect the county’s financial interest. At this point, the bonding agent becomes the contractor and works with the county to complete the project with a different construction company, at the same specifications. A new contractor has now been hired, and work will begin soon. The project, which was originally scheduled for completion in July, is now expected to finish in December.