by Angie Asam–
The Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting last Thursday evening to review the newest renovation plans for the courthouse. Trinity Architecture of Gaylord began working on the new plans last year and presented them to the board during the special workshop meeting.
The courthouse and its renovation or reconstructuction has been a topic of discussion for county boards since 1959. The building was built in the 1880s and the annex was added in 1988 with a jail that was built in 1974.
In August 1959 the then board of supervisors passed a resolution to hold a special election to ask voters to decide what to do with the courthouse. The resolution stated, “The courthouse is approximately 70 years of age and no longer adequate for the needs of the county…” The jail, then located in the southwest corner of the first floor was threatened to be closed.
“Whereas the board of supervisors does hereby determine and declare that the estimated usefulness of said courthouse, including a jail, is not less than 50 years,” stated the Aug. 7, 1959 resolution. The estimated cost at that time was $560,000.
The issue has been discussed at least once in every decade since, still with no real solutions. The truth of the matter is, now, in 2012 that the building is not energy efficient, is not properly insulated and not American with Disabilities Act accessible and continues to drain money from the county budget because of its low efficiency and inefficiencies.
With window air conditioners running in the summer, small heaters running in the winter the county continues to spend more on energy costs than they should have to.
LAST WEEK the commission had a chance to go through the plans with architect Tad Latuszek for the construction of a second floor addition over the current jail to house two courtrooms, court offices and several county offices. Once the addition would be completed the old wood-framed courthouse would be demolished and a new two-story main entrance addition constructed in its place.
The second floor addition above the jail would be connected to the current annex and would contain a secure elevator going to the jail, to eliminate the security concerns that exist with taking inmates around outside and up to the courtrooms.
“We would reuse whatever equipment we could and we have been and will be working with each department to meet their needs. It would be a state of the art building for efficiency of heating and cooling. Remember this design is conceptual. There is a lot of work to be done if you were to decide to go forward with this proposal. We would have to do construction designs and get bid documentation together,” said Latuszek.
The total project is estimated to cost $3,039,063. A 2,000-square-foot addition to the current jail is also an option that could be added with an estimated price tag of $287,325 to bring the overall cost to $3,326,388 if the county board chooses to proceed with all of it of.
The south entrance would become the main entrance for visitors to the courthouse while the other entrances would become simply employee entrances. A lobby area would be constructed and an elevator put in. The footprint of the building would remain about the same and the look of the addition would be to match the existing structure.
Insulation would be put in all of the walls to help make the structure more energy efficient and cut down on heating and cooling costs.
“We have issues with maintenance, heating and security. This plan would alleviate a lot of those issues,” said board chairman Carl Altman. In the heavy rains that fell in the area earlier in the month there were problems with leaks in many areas of the building. Patches havebeen done, and patches have been put over those patches in an effort to keep the structure functioning.
“There is only so much you can patch, and only so many times you can patch,” said commissioner Mike Darga.
Latuszek told the board that if they approved the proposal he would need about six months to have it ready to go out for bid.
“As a board we need to see if it is financially feasible. We also need to find out if it has to be approved by voters or if we can borrow the money without a vote. We need to take a look at all of those issues before we can make a decision,” said Altman.
The board will be looking into answering some of those questions as well as reviewing the proposal in more detail before making a decision at a future meeting. The board meets again Friday at 9:30 a.m.