DOBSON — After some discussion on the matter, the Surry County Board of Commissioners decided to take a “wait and see” approach and get more information before taking any action on a plan to provide much-needed improvements to the historic Dobson courthouse.
County Facilities Director Don Mitchell told the board during the meeting that his department had been in the process of having the courthouse assessed by Pilot Mountain-based Brite Engineering.
“We have had several discussions in the past few months about problems at the historic courthouse,” Mitchell wrote in a letter to the board. “The existing roof is nearly 40 years old and needs to be repaired. The masonry joints have deteriorated over the years and need to be re-pointed. The entire building above ground needs waterproofing applied and the north and south entrances need to be temporarily braced until permanent repairs can be made.”
Mitchell said the estimated costs to make the repairs could be as high as $500,000.
The facilities director told the board that the engineering firm would be willing to provide design and construction management services for a cost of $36,750, a figure that had many on the board balking.
“I personally think these are things to do because we need to have a firm on hand to ensure we’re on sound legal and safety footing,” board Chair Eddie Harris said.
A Monday meeting with Mitchell earlier in the day, however, left some questions unanswered.
“(Mitchell) and I talked about other associated issues with the courthouse, and even discussed putting on a more historically-accurate hipped roof,” Harris said. “If we enter into this contract like it’s written, it could tie our hands as far as making changes on the way we want to go.”
Mitchell said earlier that the problems with the entrances worry him the most.
“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,” he said.
He called the problems with the roof the “biggest issue.”
“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.”
He added that while he doesn’t know for sure, he feels “like the architect and engineer will try to come up with a design for us that will be suitable for this board.”
“If we’re considering a re-design, we need to get some additional input before we lock down into a contract,” said Commissioner R.F. “Buck” Golding.
Mitchell said the overall structure of the historic building, built around 1916, was found to be fairly sound.
“To be 98 years old, it’s pretty stable,” he said, noting the problems discovered need to be corrected in order to preserve the building.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to do something,” Harris said.
The board will re-visit the issue during a later meeting.
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.