Saturday, May 28, 2022

Update: Pender Courthouse restoration work could drag on through next summer

More than five months after Hurricane Florence brought extensive water and mold damage to the Pender County Courthouse, the county continues to wait for approval on its restoration plan. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
An architect for the Pender Courthouse restoration project said the building may re-open sometime between June to September of next year. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

BURGAW — Restoration and repair work of the 83-year-old Pender County Courthouse appears to be nearing a start date, 11 months after the rains of Hurricane Florence closed the building due to extensive water and mold damages.

Last Wednesday, architect Charles Boney of the Wilmington firm LS3P Associates met with county commissioners, managers, court officials, and law enforcement officers to discuss upcoming interior and exterior work, according to a Pender County update.

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Bids will be received on August 29 for exterior work, which is expected to last four months once construction begins. Bids for interior work, however, will be placed “in the very near future,” according to the update.

A tentative schedule for interior work outlines three months to complete plans, one month to issue for bids, and six to eight months to finish interior construction work. That means if all goes to plan, the courthouse would re-open sometime between June to September 2020.

Boney told county leaders that a bid advertisement for exterior work had been published on August 4. The scope of the exterior work will include:

  • Re-pointing the entire brick façade with new mortar to prevent water penetration;
  • Removing storm windows then repainting and reinstalling;
  • Caulking, repairing, and repainting wood windows while storm windows are off;
  • Painting the cupola on the top dome and other exterior work;
  • Repairing stone steps where they have settled.

The scope of the interior work will likely include:

  • Abating lead and asbestos, including the wood floors and courtroom ceiling;
  • Removing plaster from the exterior walls where damage has occurred (most of the East wall, portions of the West, North, and South walls);
  • Replacing plaster with moisture barrier on brick, metal furring, and a new moisture-resistant gyp board;
  • Replacing or restoring damaged woodwork;
  • Replacing or restoring damaged ceilings, light fixtures, and finishes;
  • Sealing the crawl space;
  • Installing a new HVAC system on the first floor and attic spaces. A new system will be ducted through floors and/or the ceiling, eliminating the current units mounted on the floor;
  • Renovating the small bathrooms on the first floor;
  • Pricing a new larger elevator for the North wing, and a second elevator for the South wing;
  • Moving electric systems to the first floor.

Meanwhile, contractors’ work has been completed on the Dees Annex building to provide a temporary courtroom and additional space for a court system that has been displaced from the main courthouse building since Florence. Court was first held at this location — the old Dees Drug Store building located directly across the entrance to the courthouse on Wright Street — on July 29.

A remediation contractor continues to clean and move files from the courthouse into a temporary storage location on a delayed schedule.

“The contractor states that this work has taken longer than anticipated but they plan to have the job completed by the end of [this week],” according to the county update.

The start of repair work comes after nearly a year of discussions between county officials, insurance and FEMA representatives, architects, and state preservation officers looking for agreement on the scope of mold remediation and restoration work needed for the building.

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.

In early May, the town announced that the courthouse was already “undergoing restoration.” 

On Tuesday morning, County Manager Randall Woodruff said “restoration work initially started months ago. Then when we determined the impact of the hurricane was much more significant than we initially realized, we had to reanalyze [the damages] to proceed at a higher level.”

He said they initially thought the building’s damage — caused by water intrusion from high winds blowing water through the mortar and the bricks — was only on the east side of the building.


Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com

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