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By Mike Scott
“He has a plan in place to shore up the building,” Clark County Commissioner C.W. Higbee said.
On Monday, December 3rd, the commissioners heard a report from S&V Consultants about the aging courthouse’s current condition and measures need to stabilize it. Their previous report indicated deterioration of the building’s limestone foundation.
Over the past several months, the building’s settling movement has accelerated, causing concerns about the building safety. In November, S&V reported the building was not in danger of collapse, but prompt shoring of the building was necessary.
S&V Consultants are applying for a $75,000 emergency grant to undertake the stabilization work.
“The first step is to stabilize the building and keep it in place,” Higbee said.
On Thursday, the first steps towards getting ready were taken, as crews cleaned truckload of junk out the courthouse basement.
“He’s going to put timbers on the floor joists and jack them up to hold the building in place. We’re not lifting the building, just keeping it from moving further,” Presiding Commissioner Paul Allen said.
In addition to shoring the foundation, the engineer recommended that a metal band be placed around the outside of the second floor of the courthouse.
“That will keep the building from separating from itself,” Higbee explained.
The emergency stabilization work may start as soon as January.
The next step will be for the S&V Consulting engineers to meet with a citizen’s committee.
“We have appointed a citizens’ committee of seven people so everything won’t be wholly on our backs,” said commissioner Wayne Bourgeois.
“They will meet with the engineer who will brief them on the situation,” Higbee said. The commissioners declined to identify the seven committee members.
“Eventually, he’s going to give them estimates of what it will cost to either restore or rebuild our courthouse. When we talk about restoring, we’re talking about the whole courthouse complex, including the building across the street,” added Bourgeois. “It’s not in much better shape than this building.”
The committee will eventually make a recommendation what course of action to follow, and the commissioners will make a final decision.
“This committee will be our salespeople to the community,” Allen said.
Whether the commissioners eventually decide on restoration or rebuilding, many challenges face them.
The cost of undertaking either type of project will be expensive, and any new taxes to pay for renovation or reconstruction will need to be approved by the voters, which is never an easy task.
Another problem will be where to locate offices during any construction period. Kahoka has very few suitable office locations available, and the various county offices may have to be scattered throughout the downtown area.