NEW CUMBERLAND-With its age showing, the Hancock County Courthouse continues to get the attention of county commissioners.
A month after approving a bid to renovate the courthouse entrance for greater security, commissioners on Thursday agreed to solicit bids for the replacement of the air conditioning system in the old courthouse.
The latest project calls for the removal and replacement of the air conditioning units in the old courthouse, a three-story cut stone building dating back to the 1920s, Commissioner Jeff Davis said.
The county courthouse is actually a two-building complex that includes a three-story annex, built in 1968, that is connected to the old section via a walkway. The older portion houses a Circuit Court courtroom, judge's chambers and offices, the assessor's office and the county clerk's office.
The HVAC system in the old courthouse needs to be replaced because it is getting old and costly to maintain, commissioners said. Heating is provided by a gas-fired boiler, and air conditioning is handled by condensing units on the roof and air handlers in the basement.
Commissioners attempted to start the project last year, when they applied for an $86,000 grant from the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority (WVCFIA). The county did not receive the grant, Davis said.
An architectural assessment of the courthouse done by Silling Associates, of Charleston, last year included a recommendation that the HVAC system be overhauled, said Robert Vidas, executive director of the county's Office of Technology and Communications. The assessment was part of a year-long study of all 55 county courthouses commissioned by the WVCFIA.
Commissioners also want to install a second elevator in the courthouse to improved handicapped-accessibility to certain portions of the building. Because the two buildings' floors do not align evenly, the elevator in the annex does not provide easy access to all parts of the old courthouse.
Circuit Court Judge Martin J. Gaughan raised the issue early in the year when he complained in a letter to commissioners about the "lack of reasonable accommodations" in the old courthouse. Gaughan uses a stair lift to get to his courtroom and judge's chambers.
Silling's assessment determined that the elevator could be placed between the two buildings; however, doing so would block an exit door and require the establishment of a new exit in the area currently occupied by the 911 Dispatch Center.
Such an exit cannot be built until the 911 Center moves to its new location-if it moves at all.
Commissioners currently have a plan to build a new headquarters for the 911 Center/Office of Emergency Management on state Route 2, but bids for the project came in significantly over budget in June. After reducing the project's scope, commissioners rebid the project but have not made a decision on how to proceed, Davis said.
Because the elevator project hinges on the 911 Center move, commissioners may have to go back to Silling, Davis said. "There were no other recommendations given to the commission on where the elevator would go. It would take major changes inside the old courthouse. We're very limited in where we can put that elevator," he said.
Commissioners also want to go back to the WVCFIA to apply for a new grant that, if approved, would help fund the replacement of the courthouse roof, Davis said.
In another building matter, commissioners on Thursday accepted a bid from Browne Group Architects, of Columbus, to design the new Hancock County Magistrate Court building. The bid, one of four received, was approximately $38,000, Vidas said.
The Magistrate Court is moving from its current location on South Court Street to the old New Cumberland Dollar General store on North Chester Street. Commissioners bought the building for $232,000 in February and want to adapt the retail space for reuse as a judicial complex.
Also Thursday, commissioners:
* Approved a Justice Assistance Grant for $30,000 to pay for two Prevention Resource Officers in Hancock County Schools.
* Approved a Justice Assistance Grant for $50,000 for the Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.
* Approved a request from Sheriff Ralph Fletcher to purchase 31 new Tasers at a cost of $36,971, and an annual maintenance agreement of $6,169. The Tasers will replace the sheriff's department's current ones, which Fletcher said were put into service in 2007 and have been malfunctioning.
* Approved a request from Team Mojo Foundation to install a paved, 700-foot bike path at Clarke Field in Newell. Commissioners' action is contingent on the approval of the Homer Laughlin China Co., which owns the land.
* Promoted Karen LaScola to the position of administrative assistant for finance. She succeeds longtime administrative assistant Cindy Jones, who retired at the end of September.
* Agreed to provide county employees with the flu vaccine through the Hancock County Health Department.