Estimate for courthouse project exceeds expectations
The requested amount to make renovations at the downtown courthouse in Corydon is more than some Harrison County Council members anticipated, and now they fear the fund they wanted to use to cover the cost of the work won’t have enough money left over for another county project.
Work at the courthouse includes replacing an aging HVAC system, and positioning the new one to run more efficiently, along with installing a new security system.
Those items and others on the to-do list at the courthouse come with a $2,366,027.01 price tag. However, some councilors said they thought the project would cost between $500,000 and $750,000.
“I think this far exceeded our expectations,” Kyle Nix said during the council’s meeting Dec. 23. “We, as a council, I don’t think, understood the scope of work.”
The council’s plan was to use money from the county’s accumulative courthouse fund, which has approximately $2.6 million available. The plan was to use the same fund for a project at the Harrison County Justice Center to add office space.
“There’s nothing left for the justice center,” councilwoman Holli Castetter said.
According to Ben Shireman, a project manager with Shireman Construction, which has designed the work to be done at the county’s health and education building, the courthouse and is in the processing of finishing the design work at the justice center, said the scope of the courthouse project has never changed.
“We did have regular Friday design meetings of which you were invited to, of course, and we didn’t see you,” Shireman said to the council. “Sorry you weren’t kept up to speed there.”
Nix responded saying the council meets twice a month and it would have been nice to have gotten updates along the way.
Shireman said he has done work on the courthouse before and knows the work that will be done will be complex.
Besides replacing the HVAC system, which will no longer sit underground on the north side of the courthouse building, work will address humidity control.
Harrison County Circuit Judge John T. Evans said the work to control temperature and humidity has never changed.
“I don’t think there’s anything different about that than from the very first day I came in and said our air conditioner is failing and the heat is different in every room,” he said to the council.
Evans added he has photos of mold growing on furniture because humidity can’t be controlled.
“We may leave on a Friday, come in on Monday and the courtroom chairs have white mold all growing on them and we’ve got to get them cleaned before anybody can sit in them,” Evans said.
The work inside is scheduled to take place after business hours, according to Shireman Construction, which contributes a little bit to the higher costs, but Shireman said that’s because people inside won’t be able to leave the building during some of the work. It will include taking out lights and sections of the ceiling.
Since the lights are coming down, Evans said it made sense to replace the bulbs with LED bulbs, which will mean lower electricity costs. The lights also come with a rebate for the county.
“Is it fair to say that when you got in there and realized the mold issue was more the result of an old system that’s down in the ground, that might have increased cost?” council president Donnie Hussung asked.
Shireman said absolutely.
As the discussion continued, Nix said it made sense to group the security system work into the HVAC project, along with some plumbing work that will replace the remaining pieces of the original piping at the courthouse.
“I do believe one of the most imminent concerns, along with the flooding aspect we had for air quality issues and things over at the health and (education) building, would be the air quality system we have at the downtown courthouse,” Nix said. “To me, that’s an imminent situation that needs addressed. I will not discount that at all and would hate that go on longer not being addressed.”
The council ended the discussion talking about areas that could be cut to save money. The council could decide to fund the work or portions of it during its first meeting in January, set for Monday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. at the government center.