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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2007
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Lawrence Commission considers courthouse renovation scenarios

By Nancy Glasscock
nglasscock@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — The county will save time and money if it moves every office in the Lawrence County Courthouse to a vacant building while renovations are under way, said an architect with TurnerBatson.

James Collins, with whom the county contracted to design plans for courthouse renovations, met with commissioners during a work session Thursday. Construction is expected to begin in May to correct fire hazards cited in July by state Fire Marshal Ed Paulk.

The renovations

The renovations will include installation of a sprinkler system, an update of fire alarms, light systems and ceiling tiles, and removal of window-unit air-conditioners.

For the most part, the appearance of the courthouse will not have changed when the renovations are complete, Collins said.

"It is a ceiling-and-above renovation," he said. "That means we're not doing anything cosmetic. We're only addressing safety issues."

If the commission has the renovations done a floor at a time, workers will need to spend several weeks on each floor, starting with the basement. But if the entire courthouse is vacant, renovations could be finished in three months, Collins said.

Completely vacating the courthouse would save the county about 10 percent on construction costs, he said.

Temporary location

Collins said his firm oversaw work on a courthouse in Fayette County while offices there moved into an old grocery store. Temporary partitions were installed in the grocery store to separate offices, and courthouse employees didn't seem to mind working in the store, he said.

"They had more space and were able to spread out a little bit," Collins said. "But when they came back, they had a whole new facility, so when they came back they were pleased as well."

Commission Chairman Bradley Cross said moving the entire courthouse into another building would be almost impossible but having the work done a floor at a time would also be inconvenient.

"I don't have a good answer, and I'm not sure anybody else does either," he said. "We're just going to have to get through this the best way we can."

Collins said construction bids will be solicited in about three months.

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