Courthouse stabilization moving along

Danny Hutchens works to install temporary water for stabilization of the Loudon County Courthouse.

The start of the new year may also be the visible start of stabilizing the Loudon County Courthouse.

Architects, contractors and consultants met Nov. 20 with Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw and Susan Huskey, county purchasing director, for a project update.

After the courthouse burned in April, talks about a two-phase stabilization and restoration plan have been underway since July.

Phase one will include roof demolition and temporary roof installation, which will allow contractors to build a new courthouse roof while preserving the structure’s interior. The new roof will follow the original roof design to retain the historic aesthetic.

Residents will see the outward effects of the process starting in January with the installation of a temporary roof.

“The first week in December for the temporary roof, we’ll be putting in some foundations,” Alex Marchese, Johnson & Galyon Construction project manager, said. “We’ll be putting in the foundations for the steel structure that we built around the building. Weeks later, toward the new year, they’ll be erecting the steel structure that goes around to support the temporary roof and in January they’ll move into the process of tearing off the old roof and installing the new temporary roof and enclose the building.”

Project mobilization started a few days off schedule due to snow.

“We were slated to start the Thursday and Friday the week it snowed, and I can’t remember the last time it snowed in November, but nothing really surprises me much anymore,” Bradshaw said with a laugh. “We’re pretty good on schedule as far as that goes.”

Working on the exterior is a major step for the stabilization process, but it also kicks off the restoration since workers will be able to enter the building safely.

“Right now, nothing has really been done on the inside,” Marchese said. “They’ve just been working on the exterior of the structure, so essentially we’re going to stay out of the inside until we get all of the steel substructure erected around the building and the roof on.”

Phase one is proposed to be complete by March 27, but the initial steps in phase two are equally as critical.

“With all the planning and everything being signed off on and everything done with the stabilization, we’re still early, but the big thing is now getting those walls stabilized so we can demolish the roof,” Bradshaw said. “We’ve actually had a small section of the roof fall in even more. Getting it demolished, getting it taken it off, then putting the temporary on — that’s going to increase the stability of the building as a whole, but that’s going to allow us to remove the windows, then we’re going to seal the building up with the air exchange units and dry it out. Once we get it dried out, we’ll go ahead and clean everything else out, and that’s going to be disposed of anyway, and that’ll hopefully get us into the spring where we will be able to start the true refurbishing, the phase two of the project.”

A slowdown will come with dehumidifying the building, which is essential for phase two.

“Once essentially at the end of our phase, once we put the new temporary roof on, we board up all the windows, get the building enclosed and gutted out, then we’re going to re-attach the HVAC equipment to the building and we’re going to start it up,” Marchese said. “That’ll run, and then that’ll start pulling out the moisture from the building to start to try and dry it out and get it ready for the next phase of renovation.”

Bradshaw is hopeful that process will help with black mold.

“There will be a little bit of a downtime when we start the air exchange units up and start drying out the building,” he said. “That’ll be anywhere from a 30- to 90-day process, but it’s a necessary process, especially with all the black mold we have.”

A temporary HVAC system is expected to be installed March 2.

Courthouse stabilization meetings will take place every at 2 p.m. every other Wednesday at the county office building. The next meeting will be Dec. 4.