June. 24-MOULTON – The Lawrence County Commission has approved plans for a former courthouse floor in Moulton Square, but commissioners and architects say it’s too early to know how much the renovation might cost.
One commissioner said the price could be too high and the project could be canceled. At last week’s meeting, another commissioner voted against the design.
“People are very proud of what we have planned. We’ve put together what people want and appreciate, but we’re waiting for cost figures,” District 2 Commissioner Norman Poole said. “(The cost) can be reversed. We can only do part of it or not do any of it.”
He had no estimate of what it would cost. No architects or construction managers attended the commission meeting.
“We don’t have any dollar figures yet. “I would say that we don’t agree with anything we don’t have money for.”
Meanwhile, District 5 Commissioner Sonia Hargrove voted against the floor plans. “I am upset that the administration offices and the Commission Chamber are not on the same floor,” he said. 4-1 Approved projects have administrative offices on the first floor and a commission room on the second floor.
District 3 Commissioner Kyle Panki asked an architect if there was enough space to add a sixth chair with five commissioners’ chairs when the county voted to appoint a full-time commission president. Bill Moraes of CMH Architects in Hoover said there is plenty of space and the overall detailed plans now go to civil, electrical and mechanical engineers.
“We’re trying to preserve the character of the building,” Moraes said. “It’s an old building and it doesn’t have any existing plans. We have to create what we have. We have to check all the wiring, check the mechanisms. We have to solve some of the roof problems. A typical update.
“It’s the focal point of this county. We want to keep it that way.”
He said immediate concerns include storm-related drainage, renovation to sidewalks, waterproofing around the building, and relocation of the power converter from the wall to the east end of the building.
“There will definitely be some surprises along the way,” Moraes said. “I’ve never done a renovation when we had some surprises. It’s a magnificent old building and we look forward to meeting those challenges.”
Kelly Howard, construction manager at Martin & Coby Construction Inc. in Athens, said renovations could take at least 20 months to complete. Supply chain problems can slow the arrival of goods, he said.
“It’s before the end of 2024 or early 2025,” Howard said. “Things like wooden doors – it can take 12 to 16 weeks to get them. You need to order them quickly and up front. Then you are taking the chance of something happening during construction and you need to replace it and you have already ordered it.
Howard said the Art-Deco style is planned for interior lobbies on the first two floors.
“When people walk in that door, it can be eye-opening. You go back in time to the building,” he said.
So far, the commission has spent more than $ 660,000 on the project. In 2015, $ 367,942 was spent protecting the exterior of the 1936 structure. The exterior is made of white limestone from Franklin County.
The commission paid $ 294,814 for Gulf Services to remove the interior last fall.
District 4 Commissioner Bobby Burch said the unknown price tag dictates what can be done.
We are moving forward with this, ”he said. The supply chain issue is one thing, but the price of some building is going down now. The economy is very unpredictable.
The nearest new court on Market Street opened in 2013, except for some county records, the old courtroom being vacant. The court buildings in the square, built in 1820 and 1860, were built in 1936.
The county commission offices, the Lawrence County Industrial Development Board, the county archives, the Commission for the Elderly and the Lawrence chapter of the Veterans Affairs plan to move the former court. There is also talk of adding the county’s United Way and Coroner’s offices.
The basement is used for storage and the third floor is covered. Each floor is about 7,000 square feet.
Burch said the county commission annex offices at Alabama 157 will be easier to sell once the square is moved.
“The annex building is a good retail location, and we will be able to use that money to pay for renovations,” he said.
Moraes believes it could be late January or early February before work bids go out. “Looks like they’ll be able to do another Christmas in the square before we start doing real renovation work,” he said.
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