The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 28, 2013

Bid packages for courthouse renovations to go out in January

By Kim West

— Bid packages for interior renovations at the Limestone County Courthouse are expected to go out in January 2014, according to project officials.

“The architectural drawings are 75 percent complete and we’re working on a budget based on those drawings,” said Kelly Howard on Wednesday. “We expect the bids to be let out after the first of the year, most likely in late January.”

Howard is the construction manager for Athens firm Martin & Cobey, which was hired by the county in October 2011 to oversee the renovations.

The $3 million estimated project has encountered delays after county officials said the initial architect, 2WR of Montgomery, missed several deadlines.The County Commission has since replaced 2WR with Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood. The county also decided to leave a historic marble staircase intact after original plans called for its removal to make way for an elevator.

“Everything is going a lot smoother, and we’ve worked out a lot of the details,” Howard said.

Howard said he anticipated the renovations to take 18 months to two years to complete. The work involves making the courthouse compliant with the American with Disabilities Act and safety codes.

“We are making a lot of changes to the inside just because we have to bring the building up to compliance, as far as ADA and life-safety requirements,” he said. “We will not be changing any of the exterior. For the interior, we will keep it as close as we can to the original integrity of the building.

“We will be saving door frames, marble wainscoting and old wood trim, which we’ll be refurbishing and re-installing.”

Building three new courtrooms to replace the two current ones will be among the most challenging aspects of the project, Howard said.

“It’s a masonry building, and the masonry is brick, with some walls being double-brick,” he said. “Building the new courtrooms involves having to make several large openings in the walls, plus having to hold up the floors while we install new beams and new columns.”

Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee said the 39th Judicial Circuit would move out of the courthouse early next year to the temporary courthouse in the former Better Living building while work is being done on the renovations.