PARKERSBURG -Architects, engineers and historical preservationists inspected the Wood County Courthouse this week as part of a statewide tour by the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority.
Thomas Potts, architect with Silling and Associates Inc. in Charleston, said Wood County was the 25th of the 55 courthouses the group has toured.
"We started back in August. We anticipate probably a 180-page report, and all the reports will be released at the same time, probably in July," Potts told the county commission during a meeting Thursday. "We loved the building. It's in great shape overall and the commission is to be commended for a wonderful job of maintenance," Potts told the commissioners.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Architects, engineers and historical preservation experts toured the Wood County Courthouse on Thursday with the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority.
The inspection included fire and public safety aspects, structural issues, mechanical systems.
Mike Gioulis, a historic preservation expert who formerly worked with the West Virginia Historic Preservation office, provided a summary of his findings for the commission.
"Our report will include specific findings and recommendations on how to address concerns as well as photographs. The report is 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," Potts said.
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. The maximum grant award is $80,000 and there is a 20 percent required funding local match on each grant.
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 which once graced the front of the courthouse. The original porch railings were apparently removed during the 1980s when renovations were done on the courthouse.
A number of recommendations were made and concerns pointed out Thursday including the need for additional exit signs in gathering areas, replacement of older lighting, repairs to prevent further water damage, stone repairs, changes in the boiler temperature to extend the life of the unit, changes to the first floor men's restroom to make it fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, addition of insulation in ductwork and additional safety lighting.
Gioulis recommended repairs to stonework around windows, water drainage issues be addressed, roof membrane repair in the bell tower and additional repairs to flooring in the bell tower and drains around the former skylight, among other repairs.
"We really appreciate the authority and the grant program and everything you all are doing to preserve our precious older buildings," Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society said during the meeting Thursday.
Structural engineers said the building is in good condition overall, but noted a few areas of the floor that need attention and advised the commission consider either moving some of the heavier file cabinets or having an engineer check floor load capacity. Engineers also recommended additional fire-rated enclosures in some locations of the building to address potential safety issues.
"It's good to develop a masterplan and lay out a timeline to address these issues. Your report will be a tremendous asset for the county," commission President Blair Couch said.
The courthouse, which was constructed in 1899 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.