Dobson courthouse in need of some TLC

By Keith Strange

June 20, 2014

DOBSON — At nearly a century old, the historic old Surry County Courthouse in Dobson is showing its age, and county officials say work is needed to ensure the health and safety of the public.

County Facilities Director Don Mitchell said engineers have been brought in to assess the building, and they have identified three issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible.

“The main one I’m concerned about are the north and south entrances,” Mitchell said. “There has been some deterioration of the heavy granite that make up the steps going into the building. It’s cracked over the years and there has been water getting into the cracks freezing and thawing, so it needs to be shored up to ensure there’s no danger to the public.”

Mitchell said a structural engineer who surveyed the damage “didn’t think it would be anything drastic” to remedy.

“But they think we should get someone with that kind of expertise to come in and fix it to keep it stable,” Mitchell said.

He added that he doesn’t believe the repairs will involve lengthy closings of the entrances.

A second problem identified during the assessment of the building involves cracking and falling masonry around the top of the historic courthouse.

“Concrete sections have worked loose and some of it has fallen from the top, and now we have gaps in the building that lets in rain when it rains,” Mitchell said. “That needs to be taken care of and filled in to make it waterproof.”

A third issue, and one Mitchell called the “biggest issue,” is a much-needed replacement to the courthouse’s roof.

“It’s probably about 40 years old and it’s really outlived its expected life span,” he said. “The roof is made of a rubber membrane and that is covered with small pebbles. It’s so old it leaks in places and has been patched numerous times. It’s just time to put a roof on it.”

Mitchell said he doesn’t believe the repairs will cause many headaches for workers in the building, which houses things like the district attorney’s office, juvenile justice and probation departments.

“We think we can do this without relocating workers,” he said. “We may have to close one side or the other off for a little while, but I’m planning on this work being done without having to vacate the building.”

The facilities director said all efforts will be made to maintain the historic nature of the building, which was built around 1916.

“When you get that old, you do need a little patchwork once in a while, but anything we do we will be doing with an eye toward not changing the appearance or historic nature of the building,” Mitchell said.

At the moment, an architect and engineer are in the process of putting together a proposal with detailed specifications of the needed repairs.

Once the proposal is in hand, which Mitchell said “could be any day now,” he will approach the county board of commissioners for direction.

“We don’t have a cost at this point and when we get the proposal we’ll have to appear before the board to get approval to put the repairs out to bid or see what they want to do,” Mitchell said.

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.