Archived Story

Restoration plans move forward for courthouse

Published 9:21am Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another major step in the process of restoring the former county courthouse building is under way.

The Cass County Board of Commissioners approved plans for a feasibility study of the courthouse’s structural condition on Thursday, which will be conducted by Grand Rapids based firm JDH Structural Engineering. The work is expected to cost the county $10,000.

JDH was selected from the several companies that applied for the county’s Request for Proposal for the structural analysis, which is needed before the officials can begin other restoration projects.

“We had costs ranging from a low of $10,000 to up to $31,000 to do what was requested,” said County Administrator Roger Fraser. “We also spent time with each of these folks when they were here. We were interested in this particular group as it happened to be the lowest cost proposal, and we got references from a couple of firms that said they do outstanding work.”

Under the terms of the contract, engineers with JDH will study the century-old courthouse’s foundations, exterior and interior walls, floors, entryways and stairwells, to help the county determine potential renovation or reuse possibilities. The firm will also access the condition of the courthouse’s roofing and water system to identify any leaks.

Fraser said the work is expected to take three to four weeks, and is expected to begin two to three weeks after the finalized contract between the county and the firm is signed.

“They were also one of the firms with the shortest timeframes for getting their work done of any of the firms that applied,” he said.

Once the study is completed, county crews will be able to use the results to determine which interior walls can be demolished without damaging the stability of the structure. This work will be handled internally within the county, Fraser said.

The feasibility assessment is not part of the remediation for the mold infestation within the structure, which is another major aspect of the initial courthouse restoration project.

The feasibility study is one portion of the ongoing county project to save the former courthouse, which was closed down more than a decade ago following the opening of the current law and courts building on the outskirts of Cassopolis. In March, the board voted to appropriate $275,000 to stabilize the downtown building.

Later that month, initial repairs were made to the structure’s existing heating and cooling system. County staff also removed unusable chairs, desks and other objects from the building in the weeks that followed.



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