The historic Halifax Courthouse Renovation project is “approaching the end,” according to building official Otis Vaughan, who anticipates it could wrap up as early as the end of January.
When driving by this past week, one could see the work completed on the sidewalks along Main Street as much of the courthouse’s appearance appeared finished.
County officials previously anticipated construction to last until April.
“The weather has been pretty good to us. We have been fortunate to get most of the site finished,” said Vaughan, who also noted they’ve been fortunate with no issues dealing with COVID-19.
He explained the contractors had recently been finishing up sidewalks starting on the north side before making their way to the upper side near Mountain Road.
They’re laying back original 1800 stones leading into the main entrance, according to Vaughan.
The Halifax County Courthouse was designed and built in 1838-1839 by Dabney Cosby. It is a two-story, “T”-shaped brick building in the Federal style. The front facade features a two-story, tetrastyle portico in the Greek Ionic order. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The county building official also gave insight to the new wall erected at the front of the courthouse near the sidewalks.
“It’s a replica of a wall that was there in the 30s and 40s,” he said.
The building official explained they had a small section of the original wall and had it duplicated.
The new wall contours with the ground that leads the height to be at various levels, although Vaughan said contractors tried to keep it as low as they could in an attempt to lead the viewers’ eyes to the courthouse.
Much work also has been completed on the inside of the courthouse, and county officials opened bids for furniture and fixtures in need of replacement last week.
Vaughan said he did not participate in the opening of those bids, but he said he was under the understanding that county officials were currently trying to make sure they were “comparing apples to apples.”
He anticipates these bids to be presented at the Halifax County Board of Supervisor’s Dec. 7 meeting.
However, Vaughan said a lot of the furniture is in good condition, and they plan to clean and reuse those such as their Bank of England chairs and oak tables.
Also in the inside of the courthouse, he said, “95% of drywall” had been completed with much of it painted as well as bathrooms tiled,
“90% of ceiling grid installed,” and HVAC installed.
This project has been in the works since 2011 when supervisors began to resolve issues at the courthouse, and in 2012, contracted with CJMW Architecture to conduct a space needs and availability assessment of the courthouse.
Meanwhile, fearing that repairs/renovations to the courthouse might not occur in a timely manner, in June 2012, the Circuit Court of Halifax County entered an Order to Show Cause against the then-current members of the board, ordering supervisors to show cause why a mandamus should not be issued commanding them to cause court facilities to be made secure, or put in good order, or rendered otherwise safe, and to proceed as in other cases of mandamus, to cause the necessary work to be done.
Since then, the county contracted with CJMW to perform design and construction services, who provided numerous sets of plans that were provided to the commonwealth for comment.
On Nov. 20, 2013, the presiding judge in the litigation entered an order directing supervisors to appoint an advisory panel to make recommendations regarding necessary repairs or renovations to the courthouse.
In response, on May 22, 2015, a Halifax County Courthouse Advisory Panel made its recommendations to the supervisors and the presiding judge.
From May 2015 through October 2015, the county and the commonwealth worked in good faith to arrive at mutually acceptable modifications to original recommendations and resolve litigation.
On Oct. 19, 2015, the county and the commonwealth agreed on a new set of modified schematics constructed to meet recommendations of both stakeholders involved in litigation and stakeholders in the community, and on April 14 of 2016, final agreed modifications were incorporated into CJMW’s revised design.
Several meetings were held with the public to receive input on the design on the project.
Blair Construction, Inc. of Gretna was eventually awarded the bid for construction with its bid of $14,824,000, and since then, the county board of supervisors has approved several change orders altering the price. The latest change order of $282,219 was approved in August.
Also, supervisors had previously approved a cap of $20 million for the project in December 2016.
Attempts to reach county administrator Scott Simpson for an up-to-date price tag on the courthouse were unsuccessful as of press time Sunday.