The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
The Franklin County Board of Supervisors has approved advertising the courthouse renovation project for bids. The renovation is needed for compliance with state safety and security guidelines.
Monday, January 21, 2013
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
The Franklin County Courthouse renovation project is now in fast-forward mode.
On Tuesday, the board of supervisors approved advertising the project for bids, after seeing the scope of the work broaden.
Mike Thurman, the county's facilities director, told the board that the original cost of the work was estimated at almost $1 million and is now projected to be $1.4 million, about $200,000 more than the $1.2 million that has been set aside for the project.
The core design plans will remain the same, but after interviewing those who use and work in the courthouse, other issues cropped up that needed to be addressed, Thurman said.
Those issues include adding a stairwell on the Main Street (front) side of the courthouse to allow stairway access to all floors. In the original plan, public access to the first two levels was accommodated with stairs, but in order to reach the second and third floors, the public would be required to use the elevator.
The public will still enter the courthouse at the same access point, but the stairwell will allow another access to all floors without using an elevator.
Thurman said the stairwell will be located at the front of the courthouse but will have "minimal impact" on the facility's appearance.
The cost of the stairwell addition is estimated at $175,000.
Another change is to provide additional space for the clerk of circuit court's office. With the new plan, the clerk's office would expand into the area where the treasurer's office was located before its move to the new government center. It would also include the former board of supervisors meeting room.
Thurman said this expansion would provide needed extra storage space for the clerk as well as a conference room that would be available for all users of the courthouse.
The expansion will cost just over $90,000.
The courthouse renovation plan is the result of a 2010 evaluation of the courthouse by the state Department of General Services (DGS), which found that all courtrooms were in noncompliance with safety and security guidelines.
The main part of the courthouse was built in 1909 and is one of only a few in the state that has no security, allowing the public to move freely in and out of several different entrances.
That report led to the board hiring the architectural firm of Thompson & Litton to design changes to place the courthouse in compliance.
In May 2012, those design plans were presented to the board and were approved.
Renovations include a single entrance for the public with metal detectors and x-ray equipment. The entrance would be located at the ground floor on the south side of the courthouse beside the parking lot.
One of the main goals was to segregate the general public from staff, judges and prisoners by using a single point of entry.
An elevator will be included in the addition for secure access to the courthouse's four floors.
The facility will have signs pointing people to the courtrooms, clerks offices and other routine destinations within the building.
The area between the courthouse and sheriff's office will also be secure so prisoners can move between buildings with no contact with the public.
Plans also include a comprehensive alarm system, including video surveillance.
With those additional costs, plus design fees and other minor improvements, the total cost of the project will be about $1.4 million.
Another change that was recommended was to add emergency generators, but the board declined to include that addition, saying the courthouse has emergency lighting in case of an outage, and the extra expense ($145,000 for a small generator or $350,000 for a large one) may not be justified.
The $1.2 million has already been set aside for the project in a courthouse security account. About half of that money is funding left over from the government center project. The rest is from savings on other projects.
In 2011, the board approved a change in the County Code to increase fees for anyone involved in a civil, criminal or traffic case in Franklin County by up to $3. That fee hike, which will bring in about $10,000 a year, will also help pay for courthouse upgrades, said county Finance Director Vincent Copenhaver.