Saving the Historic Courthouse

Vision 2040 was on the agenda again at Laurens County Council last evening. In this installment on planning for the future, County Administrator Jon Caime discussed goals for Lake Greenwood and the Historic Laurens County Courthouse.

Outlining the importance of preserving the historic courthouse building and restoring it to its former beauty included a Power Point presentation from Scott Simmons of Craig, Gaulden, Davis Architects. Simmons said the courthouse contains approximately 14,000 gross square feet of conditioned areas, and the building’s overall condition was described as “fair,” for a building that’s 180 years old.

Simmons cited “careless” renovations and additions in the 1970s that he said caused roof damage and he gave a lengthy list of needed repairs and renovations. He said the most urgent need is for emergency lighting with a fire alarm system along with roofing and waterproofing. Other recommendations are a new elevator and preservation for the exterior of the building. These points and others were noted in an assessment report of 16 pages that was presented to County Council.

Jon Caime told Council that if there were a fire over a weekend, with no alarm system, we could lose the entire building. He also said we need to stabilize this Historic Courthouse to keep its condition from getting worse.

Caime said the Historic Courthouse is one of three projects facing County Council. The others are a new EMS Headquarters facility, which is at a standstill and the renovations at Hillcrest Square which are now underway.

County Council approved $700,000 for renovations of the Historic Courthouse, with David Pitts and Diane Anderson opposed. They suggested a bond issue and commissioning the Historic Courthouse renovation along with current renovations at Hillcrest Square and moving forward on the EMS Headquarters is one package.

Administrator Caime responded, indicating that because of the uncertainty about the EMS Headquarters project he can’t request a bond issuance now, adding “But if we don’t do something for the courthouse, it will get worse.” He said the $700.000, for now is for the first phase at the Historic Courthouse, to stabilize the structure, provide fire protection and repair roof leaks.

As for Mrs. Anderson’s concern about doing the projects haphazardly, Caimey indicated he can’t ask Council to borrow if we have reserve funds to cover the immediate needs at the historic courthouse. As for David Pitt’s idea of handling all three issues in a complete project, Jon Caime said that breaking the concerns into three phases, one should not disqualify the next phase, noting each would build on the other.

Laurens County Parks and Recreation Director Andy Howard proposed a County Park on Lake Greenwood, as part of Vision 2014 for the Laurens County side of the lake. We’ll have more on that on tomorrow’s news.