By Kathi Bliss
After a little more than two years of consideration and wrangling, the Caldwell County Commissioners Court finally approved a contract for extensive maintenance and repairs to the historic Caldwell County Courthouse on Monday.
Working with funds acquired from a certificate of obligation bond in 2010, the Commissioners voted to approve $475,000 in repairs and renovations to be completed within the next 120 days.
Normal wear-and-tear, combined with pollution and stalled maintenance has caused damage to the restored Courthouse, particularly focusing on deterioration of window facings and decorative ironwork. In an attempt to stave off the deterioration, the Commissioners voted in July 2011 to hire a part-time independent contractor, unofficially dubbed “Mr. Courthouse,” to complete some of the repair work and to focus specifically on maintenance of the courthouse.
Since that time, little of the proposed work has been done and the contractor, who was later added as a full-time county employee, has been diverted to other maintenance duties.
The hydraulic lift purchased to assist him in those duties remains largely unused.
During a brief discussion with Mary Salisbury, an estimator with Alpha Building Corporation, who has been hired to do the work, the Commissioners eyed several methods of keeping costs down – one of which is to rent only one lift, while using the County’s equipment as well.
Salisbury suggested that her quote, which initially included the rental of two lifts, also presumed adding the use of the county-owned lift in an effort to maximize the work.
“I was really planning on having all three lifts,” she said. “We were planning to phase the lifts in, after we take down the scaffolding, because we can only put one man at a time, plus products and equipment, on the lift.”
In the end, one lift was removed from the proposal to bring the price down to $475,000, and Salisbury said Alpha would revisit the work schedule to offset the use of the third lift.
The work, which is expected to begin within the next 10 days, includes washing the sandstone with a biogenic solution that will not endanger human, animal or plant life. Then, sandstone in some areas will be repaired.
Additionally, windows across the exterior of the building will be repaired and painted, with a wood-fill solution used to restore the windows to their original splendor.
Questions arose about the work to be done on the many iron railings and filigrees decorating the courthouse. According to Salisbury, the contractors approached about working with the iron expressed concern that the condition of the rails was such that power-washing would be impossible, for fear of destroying the metal.
Therefore, the powdercoating the Commissioners had requested for the railings cannot be done. Instead, contractors will hand-sand the railings, and apply a volatile but tough epoxy-based paint.
After the discussion, the Commissioners voted 3-1 to move forward with the contract with Alpha.
Commissioner Fred Buchholtz was adamant that the work should remain in-house as much as possible, and that “Mr. Courthouse” should be given the opportunity to do the work, as was originally planned.
The others, after receiving assurances that Alpha staff would help train “Mr. Courthouse” on the processes and procedures, and would help him formulate a maintenance plan that would stave off further deterioration, opted to go forward with the contract.
Commissioner Neto Madrigal was absent from the special-called meeting.
The Caldwell County Commissioners routinely meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference and Training Room at the LW Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St., in Lockhart. The meetings are open to the public and interested stakeholders are encouraged to attend.
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