Commission seeks grant for drainage issue

PARKERSBURG -Wood County commissioners will seek a West Virginia Courthouse Facilities grant, which, if funded, would help address exterior courthouse water drainage concerns.

“The grant would seek funds to add drip edges to deflect water draining down the exterior stone at the base where there is some water damage that has already occurred,” county administrator Marty Seufer told the commissioners. “The rain water is now draining straight down over the stone. These edges would deflect it to flow outward and down.”

A projected cost for the project is required for the grant application. Seufer said he met with the owner of David’s Stone Limited Liability Corp. to get a cost estimate. The firm earlier did a courthouse step restoration project and will soon be working on restoration of the former porch ballisters, both paid for by West Virginia Courthouse Facility Authority grants.

If the grant is awarded, bids would be sought for the work, county officials said.

“This project would help preserve the stone. If we don’t do this, it will continue to allow water damage,” Seufer said.

If approved, the project might also address some of the water drainage problems experienced in the first floor of the building, the administrator noted.

“It’s an issue all the way around the building. The mortar for the edges would be matched up with the existing stone mortar to keep the historic tone of the building,” Seufer said.

The courthouse was constructed in 1899 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The courthouse is the centerpiece of downtown so we want to make sure it’s protected,” noted commission President Wayne Dunn.

Seufer said the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities report recently provided to the county estimated the cost for the job to be about $30,000, but Seufer said he expected the actual estimate to be less.

The grants would require a 20 percent match. County officials said this will be the smallest grant request submitted by Wood County to the WVCF so far.

Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch, who along with Seufer attended meetings on the facilities grants, said “the key consideration is the historical buildings. This tries to diminish the wear and tear on the buildings, to avoid more costly projects later,” Couch said of the current grant application.

Couch noted for some counties coming up with the required 20 percent match puts the grants out of the realm of possibility.

“That’s a real stumbling block for some counties,” Couch said.

“This is more of a maintenance issue. It won’t be something the public will probably even notice, but it is necessary,” Seufer said.

In December 2012 architects, engineers and historic preservationists inspected the local courthouse as part of a statewide tour by the courthouse facility group. At that time it was announced a lengthy report would be turned over to the Wood County commissioners with specific findings and recommendations on how to address concerns as well as photographs.

The report was intended as a longer range planning tool for county commissions as well as a help to the courthouse facility improvement authority to use in considering grant applications and will also go to the Legislature to show them the needs and hopefully encourage legislators to increase the funding available to address repairs and needs in the courthouses around the state, the commissioners were told. But when the report was delivered recently it was marked “confidential.”

Upon inquiry from Wood County officials, they were informed they could copy the report for themselves and their maintenance staff, but it was not to be made available to anyone else.

In 2001, the Legislature created the courthouse authority to evaluate the needs of courthouses and estimate potential costs for renovations and repairs. The authority oversees a special revenue account of fees collected for county services, such as marriage licenses and copying fees for tax maps.

Counties can annually apply for the grants. The funding can be used for anything related to courthouses or any other county-owned buildings used for county operations.

Wood County has received several courthouse facilities grants over the years, including a grant to replace the stone steps at the fountain and Market Street entrances. Most recently, the county was awarded a $28,400 grant to restore the original porches that once graced the front of the courthouse. The original porch railings were apparently removed during the 1980s when renovations were done.