Sullivan courthouse leaks could cost taxpayers $60,000

J. H. Osborne • Feb 10, 2007 at 7:30 AM

Damage from window leaks at the historic Sullivan courthouse could cost as much as $60,000 to repair, and more work is needed. Erica Yoon photo.


BLOUNTVILLE - It could cost up to $60,000 to repair leak-damaged windows in Sullivan County's historic courthouse. And that doesn't include repair or replacement of damaged rafters or disposal or remediation of any hazardous materials if any are found once work begins.

BurWil Construction Co., of Bristol, was the only firm interested enough to submit a proposal to do the work, County Purchasing Agent Nelda Fleenor told county commissioners this past Thursday.

The courthouse also needs a new roof - but damage from leaks must be repaired first to make sure workers can climb on the building without fear of a collapse, Claude Smith, construction project manager for the county, said last month.

Smith the leaks have been repaired but have left timbers in the roof - especially out over the front portico - "in pretty bad shape."

He said a new roof is needed - he suggested metal, perhaps to look like copper - and that the building's weight now is sitting on window sashes.

That pressure, combined with damage to the window lintels, has caused some windows to break, Smith said.

"We need to fix the lintels first," Smith said last month. "The roof won't hold you."

Fleenor said her office sought preliminary consultations from local contractors for repairs to the courthouse's east end because of damage from leaks around windows.

Fleenor has in the past said it's harder to get bids for work on historic structures.

"Nobody wanted to do the work," she said of her initial attempt to get work started on the courthouse repairs.

Eventually, she said, Burwil Construction submitted a bid of $28,900 to remove and replace material damaged by the leaks - but that figure does not include replacing rafters or shingles, so it could be more once the work begins.

On Thursday, Fleenor and Smith presented the county commission's Budget Committee with a Feb. 6 letter from BurWil, offering a contract to do the work for "cost plus 10 percent fee and 5 percent overhead" with a guaranteed maximum price of $60,000.

Smith presented a list, from his office, of suggested repairs to the courthouse roof. No cost estimate was included.

Sullivan County's fiscal year 2007 (FY07) budget included $62,500 for county building renovations. The fiscal year covers county finances from July 1, 2006, until June 30, 2007.

According to a midyear budget report prepared by the county's office of accounts and budgets, that renovation fund had a balance of about $33,000 as of Dec. 31.

Budget Committee Chairman Eddie Williams said it's likely most of the work won't get under way or be completed until FY08 begins July 1, so funding for the courthouse repairs will need to be addressed in the upcoming budget process.

According to the county's Web site, the present courthouse was built in 1853, burned with nearly all its archives in 1863 by Federal forces during the Civil War, rebuilt within the walls in 1866, remodeled in 1920, and additions were made in 1958.

The courthouse is not individually listed on the National Register of Historical Places, but is a part of the Blountville Historic District, added to the Register in 1973.

For more information, visit www.sullivancounty.org or www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/tn/Sullivan/state.html.

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