Archived Story

Progress made on historic Cass County courthouse

Published 8:00am Thursday, April 17, 2014

Preliminary restoration work of the former Cass County courthouse is well under way, with updates to the building’s HVAC system nearly 80 percent complete, according to a report by Building and Grounds Director Dave Dickey.

Dickey gave the update during the meeting of the Historic Courthouse Committee Wednesday morning, informing the members of the current progress crews have made in getting the century-old building in stable condition. Last month, the Cass County Board of Commissioners approved $54,075 worth of repairs to the structure’s boilers, piping and temperature control system.

“The boilers are going to be fired early next week, and they’re going to be brought up to pressure and held for one day to make sure there are no leaks,” Dickey said. “The air conditioners are also going to be fired up next week. It’s going to be a busy week for the mechanical guys.”

Crews have also spent the last several days removing old chairs, desks and other loose materials from the shuttered courthouse, placing them into a dumpster behind the building. The cleaning process is being done ahead of planned remediation of the mold growth that has occurred since the building was closed to the public a decade ago, Dickey said.

“[They’re] things that were not going to be reusable, and we have deemed not to be of value to take to the sheriff’s office,” Dickey said. “You don’t want to put that back out to the public, the way that stuff was.”

Dickey said that the dumpster should be removed from the property by the end of the day.

The director also provided an update on the status of the mold removal. Requests for proposals for the project were due last Friday, though bids the county received from interested vendors came back higher than anticipated, ranging from $45,000 to $75,000, Dickey said. The county hired an environmental engineer, ACM of South Bend, to help review the bids and provide an estimated scope of the work that was needed.

“After the review by ACM and myself, we realized that [the vendors] had expanded the scope of their own,” Dickey said. “They weren’t given enough direction during their walkthrough. They figured every room, every carpet, every ceiling and every wall in that building needed work. That is not necessary.”

ACM will work with the vendors to reestablish the scope of the remediation project in order to reduce the bids, Dickey said.

“I believe, given another week, they will come back within those parameters,” he said.

Despite this setback, Dickey said that the timeline for this initial phase of restoration work remains on track, with work on track to be completed before the mold growth escalates to levels that will be more difficult to manage.

These projects are part of the first planned phase of restoration work the old courthouse, which sits adjacent to the Cass County Annex building at the corner of Broadway and State in Cassopolis. Earlier this year, the board authorized the spending of $275,000 to help stabilize the building. The county is still formulating plans on potential restoration and reuse of the structure, which was closed following the 2003 opening of the Cass County Law and Courts Building.

The next meeting of the Historic Courthouse Meeting will take place next month, on May 14, inside the board of commissioner chambers at the county annex.

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