Slow going on courthouse renovations

The Loudon County Courthouse windows are sealed, which means work inside the building can begin.

Loudon County Courthouse is nearing the end of phase one renovations following weather delays earlier in the year.

Rainfall and safety concerns in May pushed the project 35 days behind schedule. The project is now progressing on a new schedule accounting for the 35-day delay.

“We are close to schedule at this time,” Susan Huskey, Loudon County purchasing director, said in an email correspondence. “The delays in the early stage of this phase were due to the number of rain days. Once the structure was stabilized and the temporary roof installed, it allowed inside work to continue on schedule with the removal of debris and wet materials from the interior.”

Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said now that courthouse windows are sealed, the project should pick up momentum.

“If you drive by there, you’ll notice the windows are out, everything’s sealed,” Bradshaw said. “We’ve got the air exchange unit running. It’s just a matter of how quick they can get everything dried out and when it’s safe to go in really without respirators. That being said, once we get it there, I believe we’ll see progress move pretty quick. We’re going to be in the dry, so the work is not going to be so dependent on good weather. So whether rain or shine, once we get inside to work, we’ll be in good shape, and I’ve talked with several stakeholders as well as insurance and my purchasing director, Susan Huskey. We’re going to get her back the way she was when we left and get it ready and get it open for business.”

Stabilization of the building was completed in July. Construction workers are now focusing on mold remediation, dehumidifying the building and general cleanup. The building will then be inspected for cleanliness before a fungicidal coating is applied and a final inspection completed.

“The architect is currently working with the contractor to establish a cost proposal for completing the restoration and reconstruction, which is considered phase 2 and ultimately the final phase,” Huskey said.

Huskey said COVID-19 had a “limited effect” on the construction side of phase one, but created financial obstacles during discussion of an annex or addition to the original courthouse.

“We scrounged everything, every dollar we could to put into this upcoming budget, this budget we’re in now,” Bradshaw said. “So I think the talk is there, I don’t think it’s going to be immediate. Maybe a year or two years, maybe three years down the road we start looking at the annex or the expansion, whichever way commission chooses to go. Just with this whole COVID deal, we were really unsure about budgets and numbers and revenue coming in.”

Bradshaw believes it will be well into 2022 or 2023 before Loudon County Commission continues annex discussions.

“We’ve been very good here in Loudon County,” he said. “Our revenues are extremely good and really above and beyond what we were expecting even coming in. But that being said, there’s still a lot of unknowns, especially with the election coming up this November as far as how the revenues are going to maintain over the next little stretch of time. We’ll see how that goes. It’s not off the table, but it’s not on the forefront either.”