BURGAW — Restoration work has started on the Pender County Courthouse, nearly eight months after Hurricane Florence caused extensive water and mold damage to the historic building in the middle of Burgaw’s town square.
According to County Assistant Manager Chad McEwen, Wilmington-based architectural firm LS3P estimates that court will resume in early 2020. He also said the county did not budget for storm repairs at the courthouse since it anticipates “most expenses will be covered either by our insurance provider or FEMA.”
According to county spokesperson Tammy Proctor, total costs of the project are currently unknown. The county’s facilities and fleet director, Allen Vann, called LS3P’s project completion timeline “ambitious.”
“Given the scope of work required to restore the building to pre-Florence conditions, the timeline provided by the architect is very ambitious,” Vann said.
The start of repair work comes after months of discussions between county officials, insurance and FEMA representatives, architects, and state preservation officers looking for agreement on the scope of mold remediation work needed for the building. Restoration work will also begin on the Hampstead Annex, which houses several county departments including health, planning, housing, and the Sheriff’s office.
“The Pender County Courthouse will require extensive interior repairs, including removal of mold, remediation of lead paint and asbestos mastic, roof and masonry repairs, and windows and wood trim and interior and exterior architectural feature restoration,” the county announced in a release. “Complicating this process is the fact that the Courthouse is a national registered historical structure which requires compliance with historical preservation and restoration guidelines to receive FEMA reimbursement for the associated cost.”
In February, commissioners and town officials debated details of the delayed approval from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), including a potential FEMA reimbursement tied to SHPO approval and whether the county itself had delayed communication with the preservation office.
“We’re holding court in every nook and cranny we can find,” Commissioner David Williams said at the time, referring to court proceedings taking place in buildings throughout Burgaw.
The combination of funding sources from insurance and FEMA should result in minimal out-of-pocket expenses to the county, McEwen said.
“The restoration of the Courthouse is the top priority for the county in terms of repairs related to damage to our facilities caused by Hurricane Florence,” McEwen said. “This has been, and will continue to be, a complex and time-consuming process.”
At the Hampstead Annex — the former Topsail School — crews are installing a new ceiling and floor in the auditorium. Repairs to the drywall and woodwork in other portions of the building are also underway. Work is expected to be completed by late June.
Vann said the restoration of Burgaw’s courthouse entails a multi-agency process involving FEMA, the county’s insurance company, LS3P, N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, SHPO, Pender County Clerk of Superior Court, and numerous other court and judicial officials.
In April, Pender County Clerk of Courts Elizabeth Craver called to attention health issues experienced by her staff after they were relocated from the courthouse to the Judicial Annex Building — an issue she referred to as “sick building syndrome.”
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com