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Courthouse going under restoration

People driving by the Lawrence County Courthouse have probably noticed a wooden structure around the Fourth Street entrance, a huge pile of dirt and crews on long cranes working on the Annex.

That’s because the building is undergoing restoration and renovation work that will include, once work is finished next year, new elevators, upgraded heating and cooling systems, better lighting, a new roof, energy-efficient lighting, sealing off potential leaks with new mortar, making the annex better match the original courthouse, fixing crumbling architectural details and returning the dome to it’s original copper color. The project started in July and will take until December 2019 or January 2020 to wrap up.

“Right now, they are finishing up with the cleaning of the Annex part of the building,” said Chief Deputy Auditor Chris Kline. “They are putting on the new coat of stain and sealant on it. It has a tint in it so it will match the sandstone color of the original part of the courthouse.”

He said the tint became necessary after the outside walls of the Annex were cleaned.
“It looked more white because all the dirt and grime came off it,” Kline said, with a laugh. “Now it will match better.”

On the original part of the building, crews are working on fixing mortar joints and the stonework that has come loose or eroded over the entrance.

“They’re making soft castings and putting them on. And that will be painted and touched up,” Kline said. “People will won’t even know the difference when they are done.”

Kline said the work on the interior is things like replacing an elevator, installing new air conditioners and heaters and installing LED lights that will save the county money in the long run.

“It’s estimated it will save $1,000 a month,” he said.

Kline said the dome will undergo restoration too because there are issues with it.

“There is solder that needs to be taken off and replaced to stop some leaking, but they are going to blast the dome to return it to its original color,” he said, explaining that the green color that everyone thinks is a patina is actually paint. “It will gleam in the sunlight again when they have it finished.”

The roof on the Annex will be replaced with new roofing.

Kline said all this is necessary since the Annex really hasn’t had any work done on it since it was built some four decades ago.

“The roof, the HVAC system, they just aren’t working. They are failing,” he said. “We just decided to do it all at one time.”

He said the total cost of the project is $6.5 million and with so many things leaking, it was better to do the work now before there are failures.

“You don’t want it get to the point where it turns into a situation like Memorial Hall did for Ironton, where you have to abandon the building,” Kline said. “If you buy a home, you know at some point you are going to have to put a new roof on and put in a new HVAC system. At some point, it has to be done. It’s cheaper to do that rather than build a new building every 50 years.”

The courthouse renovation project is being completed by The Perfection Group, based out of Cincinnati.

The money for the project is set to come out of the one-time $4 million in funds from the state.