Committee Asked To Decide Fate of Courthouse

Committee Asked To Decide Fate of Courthouse

 Committee Asked To Decide Fate of Courthouse

By Mike Scott

Clark County’s 137-year-old courthouse took center stage again Tuesday evening, February 24, as around thirty area residents gathered in the courtroom with the current and former Clark County Commissioners, their appointed “Courthouse Committee” and engineers from S&V Consultants of Jefferson City. The members of the committee are Chuck Braxton, Cinda James, Paul O’Day, Sherry Brunk, Shawn McAfee, Jay Meinhardt and John Winkleman.

The meeting was the first for the committee in nearly a year, and Roger Verslues of S&V Consultants presented a preliminary draft report comparing restoration and new building construction.

Commissioner Jerry Neyens explained to all attending that the committee would review the report and ask questions, and then be asked to vote on which way to proceed. Audience members could ask questions at the end of the meeting.

“Hopefully the information we passed out to you will help you reach a decision tonight,” said Verslues. S&V presented preliminary estimates for renovating both the courthouse and the Hiller Building across the street, along with costs building new buildings with approximately twenty percent more space.

“We want to look twenty to thirty years ahead to what your needs will be,’ Verslues said.

Restoring the current courthouse itself is estimated to cost $2,157, 410. That restoration would essentially gut the existing structure, and restore it to as original a condition as possible, which would be required as the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“State and federal officials don’t expect anybody to spend more money than the building is worth to renovate,” Verslues said, adding that there is a process to remove the building from the National Register listing, which would then allow it to be demolished and rebuilt.

The cost to restore the Hiller Building would add another $1.9 million dollars, making the total restoration price tag exceed four million dollars.

The cost to build a new, two-story courthouse with a full basement and expanded parking would be approximately 3.5 million dollars. Verslues envisions the project to include a “visitor center”, which would incorporate some of the existing memorabilia from the current courthouse, such as the cupola, front open staircase, and the judge’s bench.

A new building could also save fifty percent or more in energy costs.

Committee member Shawn McAfee said that he would like to see a concept drawing before he would vote either way on the issue, and other committee members agreed.

“When the new school was built, a lot of voters were surprised and disappointed that it was steel building. We don’t want that to happen here,” McAfee said.

The committee has agreed to meet again on March 10 to review that concept drawing and possibly make a decision which way to proceed.

Under either plan, Clark County voters would have to approve the county seeking a bond to pay for the project. A bond might be repaid through a utility tax, real estate taxes, or a sales tax.

“Any way it might work, we, the taxpayers, will be paying for it,” said Neyens. The commissioners are seeking information from bonding companies to see current bond rates, and how much the county could borrow for the project.

The commissioners would like to a bond issue before the voters in a June election, with the bond issue being the only issue on the ballot. That gives them only about three more weeks to decide on which approach they want to pursue. If approved then, the commissioners are hoping to apply for federal stimulus dollars to aid in the project. Next week, the commissioners are going to Jefferson City to meet with state officials to discuss funding options.

The committee will meet again at 5:00PM on Tuesday, March 10.

Readers-what do you think?  Post your comments below.

8 Responses to Committee Asked To Decide Fate of Courthouse

  1. Travis

    March 3, 2009 at 11:17 PM

    I have a couple thoughts

    Did the new construction cost estimate include the costs for demolition of the old structures

    If you moved forward with bond proposal, can you include a clause that protects the people by way of approving the final design and cost structure before breaking ground? In effect, structure the bond in a way that allows the lattitude necessary to adjust the final numbers based on design and cost changes.

    It was mentioned that a new structure could save approximately 50% in energy costs. I would challenge the committee to ensure that any new structure would go way beyond standard energy efficiencies andfocus on some future model of “green” classification. (keep in mind this may also be a way to get federal funding)

    Doesn’t Kahoka have a museum? I would suggest not wasting space in a new courthouse for a vistiors center filled with old courthouse rubbage when that could go to the museum. I think if you decide to build a new courthouse, keep to the necessities and store the extras elsewhere.

    Does the new/restored courthouse project estimates include costs to bring the technology into the 21st century in areas where it may be lacking? (Another potential federal funding opportunity?) At least make sure the infrastructure is designed in a way that it could be upgraded/expanded in time with as little impact as possible – you don’t want to miss the opportunity.

    What about jobs created on this project – any way to ensure you use as many local contractors as possible? No personal favors – only qualified people with competitive pricing – you might even be able to get better pricing in many instances. (It is after all just a big house right – There are a bunch of people in the area who build homes and do contruction for a living.

    I am sure I could come up with more – but enough for now.

  2. Anonymous

    March 5, 2009 at 5:15 PM

    I would like to see a new courthouse built, demolish the old one, as well as the old annex building across the street. They are both in terrible shape, and infested with bats which is very unhealthy for the employees and customers.

    If the voters approve that a new courthouse be built, I would like to see a plan for a courthouse which looks basically just like our old courthouse, only larger to house all of the necessary offices. I think the building should have that historic look of our old courthouse, with a new cupola and make the courthouse in appearance very similar to our current one. This appearance would be more pleasing to those that do not want the historical flavor of the old courthouse to no longer exist.

    The old annex building could be torn down and parking space for employee and visitor parking, as well as overflow on days when a jury is called. The new courthouse could basically take up most of the space in the courtyard, with a small parking area for handicap only, in that location. There is no reason the employees and customers could not walk across the street to the courthouse. School children cross this highway every day. Since the courthouse would take up more space than the current courthouse, the walk to the courthouse from the parking lot would be minimal.

  3. Anonymous

    March 6, 2009 at 3:15 PM

    I vote to restore the current courthouse. The courthouse is a landmark and should be preserved for future generations. It is one of only a few, and maybe the only one, original stucco courthouses in the nation. Restoring it to its original condition could bring many visitors to Kahoka.

  4. Anonymous

    March 6, 2009 at 5:40 PM

    Here’s an idea. Why not have the city of Kahoka donate the city park square? It was where the courthouse was supposed to be built in the first place.

    Build a new, smaller courthouse there, and buy the Pamida building as an annex.

    Just an idea.

  5. Anonymous

    March 6, 2009 at 8:28 PM

    In reply to a comments about the current courthouse. The courthouse is not original stucco. It has just been covered in stucco which is falling off. The courthouse is actually brick with white stone cornerstones. If you do any research, you will find pictures of the original courthouse, and it was brick. A new one could be built that would resemble the current courthouse style, but functional, handicap accessable, house all of the county offices and be just as beautiful.

  6. Anonymous

    March 7, 2009 at 1:20 AM

    The county should be build a beautiful historic-looking structure that reflects the beauty and strength of Clark Countians.

    There is an excellent collection of photos of 84 Missouri courthouses at:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7225206@N06/sets/72157600210129182/

    posted also as a photo set at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7225206@N06/

  7. Anonymous

    March 7, 2009 at 2:10 AM

    The Miller county courthouse (Tuscumbia,MO) is new but has one side that maintains a historic look.

  8. Carla D

    March 10, 2009 at 4:42 PM

    I think the commissioners have a tough issue here, but I think they should review agreements they made to obtain grants, and the past history of the courthouse. I would not like to lose such an historical building, one of the few we have left in the county.

    Carla Derrick

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