County Courthouse renovation begins: bringing the old and new together

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Switzerland County residents are already seeing the benefits of the new addition to the Switzerland County Courthouse; but now a new phase of the overall project will mix the old and the new.

Work is underway to renovate areas of the existing courthouse in order to make it blend more with the new addition. County offices that did not move into the new expansion are seeing their work areas expanded and refurbished — all with an eye toward making the building more functional for workers and visitors.

County auditor Janice Ramsey said that work is already finished on the new roof for the original courthouse, noting that water leaks that have caused many past problems needed to be a top priority before other work begins.

“The commissioners wanted to get the roof done before the did anything else,” Janice Ramsey said. “There is no reason to remodel the courtroom and then have it ruined by water again.”

That work involved applying a new rubber roof to the courthouse, with the Harsin & Bolden getting the contract at a cost for the roof of $29,680.

The courtroom has long been the centerpiece of the courthouse, and workers will now repair and repaint the entire upstairs area, including the gold trim in the courtroom. The existing carpet in the upstairs area will be replaced, and the offices off of the courtroom will be refurbished.

Janice Ramsey said that the offices, which formerly housed the judge and staff, are now being used as conference rooms for attorneys to confer with their clients.

The real difference in the renovation of the existing courthouse will be on the main level, where county offices are finding new homes and more space.

After years of being cramped into small offices, the construction of the expansion is allowing county offices to spread out — and it is also providing badly needed storage space for supplies and records.

In recent years the main hallway of the courthouse has been lined with filing cabinets holding various documents, but all of those have now been removed and placed in protected areas.

With County Clerk Ginger Peters and her staff moving into the new expansion, County Assessor Joan Armstrong and her staff have moved across the hallway in the original building and are now occupying that space.

Construction workers and painters have already finished those offices, and the assessor’s office now has twice the space to store documents and serve customers.

The former assessor’s office now sits empty, but soon it will be redecorated and Janice Ramsey and the auditor’s office staff will expand into that area while keeping their current space.

“It’s going to be wonderful,” Janice Ramsey said. “For years we’ve all made do with the small spaces that we had, but this really gives us a lot of room.”

Janice Ramsey said that when workers begin to renovate her area, they will first complete the old assessor’s office. The auditor’s staff will then move most of their operations into that area while the work continues on the current auditor’s space.

Another area that has already been completed is the former office space of County Recorder Nancy Brown.

With the Recorder’s office moving into the new expansion, the former office is now the office for County Highway Clerk Ann Holdcroft and County Planning and Zoning director Mark Archer.

That space has been repainted, and the former recorder’s storage vault has also been redone for added space.

The Recorder’s office itself is in the new addition, and for visitors to the courthouse who are wanting to research deed records or other information — the new space is wonderful.

Rolling files cover one entire wall, allowing researchers to easily identify what deed record book they need, and then easily put it back in its proper location when finished.

Counters in the research room allow searchers to go through the deed books more easily.

Also targeted for renovation are the two bathroom areas in the existing courthouse; and the main hallway will be recarpeted and redecorated so that it flows flawlessly from the original courthouse into the new expansion.

Janice Ramsey said that one of the things that she would like to see is the establishment of an area in the original courthouse — perhaps on a main wall in the main hallway — where the county could display original works by county artists.

“A lot of people from outside the county come into the courthouse for various reasons,” she said. “I think it would be nice for those visitors to see some of the talent that we have here in the county. There’s a lot of artists here that many people have no idea how talented they are.”

The entire cost for all of the renovations is approximately $130,000 — and a big plus to Janice Ramsey is that no taxpayer dollars are being spent on the project.

All of the repairs are being paid through the Cum Cap fund except for the electrical work, which is being paid for using casino revenue sharing dollars.

One inconvenience for the auditor’s office is that the work is going on now, as Janice Ramsey and her staff are working on the end of the year settlement information.

“It’ll be pretty hectic until the first of the year,” Janice Ramsey said. “But everything will be fine. I’m just really proud of what the workers have done so far, and I think county residents will be, too.”