County approves $79K more on projects

By Jeff Linville -

DOBSON — Workers are getting to the end of demolition and removal at the historic courthouse.

That was the word from contracted architect Tony Chilton this week during an update before the Surry County Board of Commissioners.

Chilton and Don Mitchell, county facilities director, came before the board with some change orders that added costs to the project.

The good new is that most of the unforeseen issues that come up in a project are during the demolition phase when workers are digging into floors and walls and seeing what is there, Chilton explained. Now that this phase is winding down, change orders will be fewer.

This was the second phase of the renovation plan as the county first had to improve the exterior before going inside. The cost of a new roof, new granite around the rebuilt entrances and other work on the century-old courthouse cost about half a million dollars.

Don Mitchell, county facilities director, said the biggest expenses inside would be a new elevator (at likely around $300,000) and a new fire alarm system ($100,000) to bring the building up to current building codes.

Chilton last year that the estimated expenses would include about $35,000 for heating and air conditioning work and $25,000 to $30,000 for electrical work. A meeting room for commissioners could cost about $200,000, and renovating the remaining floor space into offices could cost $850,000 to $900,000.

In December, Hayco Construction came in with the lowest sealed bid at a little more than $1.7 million. The commissioners approved that contract as well as $107,000 for professional services and $100,000 for contingencies. Altogether, the exterior and interior renovations come to $2.4 million.

With the demolition nearing completion, board chairman Eddie Harris asked Chilton how the underlying frame was holding up. “The bones still structurally solid, Tony?”

“We haven’t found any substandard masonry or unnecessary crumbling,” answered Chilton. “I feel really good about where we are.”

The board voted to approved three change orders that will cost $49,355 from the contingency fund.

According to Mitchell, these unexpected issues push the total change order costs to $93,076 of the $100,000 budgeted.

Because of the roof issues previously fixed, officials knew there was a chance of finding some water damage.

However, Chilton said what he found on the second floor was some water damage that was from putting out a fire many years ago. That and an issue with how the walls are looking during demolition had him saying it is almost impossible to save the old plaster ceilings on that floor.

He suggests ripping them out and going back with a standard drop-down acoustical tile ceiling and new lighting. This will cost $28,484.

There are different styles of acoustical ceilings, Chilton noted, and something could be picked that fits better with the historical context of the building.

In the attic space, the contractor found a couple of fresh-air intakes with clay masonry surrounds. The clay is old and heavy, cautioned Chilton. If it ever failed, it could crash right through a drop-down tile ceiling into the floor below.

Removing this clay and going back with lightweight sheet metal will cost $12,878.

A problem with an electrical panel was the third issue. One of the main distribution panels is a 1974 vintage, the men warned, and is known to have issues with age. While replacing, they recommended upgrading from an eight-space panel to one with 12 spaces to allow for additional circuit breakers.

This will cost $7,993.

Dobson Plaza

In opening the December bids for the former Lowes Food/Just Save building, Simcon came in with a bid of $1.8 million, almost $200,000 less than the next-closest bidder.

Officials were pleased with the lower bid, but knew there could be unexpected issues and put more in contingencies ($150,000) than with the courthouse ($100,000), which had been more thoroughly examined throughout.

Mitchell came before the board with six change orders totaling $29,443.

The first was $4,965 for grinding the floor surface and applying a floor-leveling compound.

Chilton noted that large areas of the cement floor were exposed to water over the years when it was a grocery store. That has caused some spalding, or flaking/pitting of the top surface.

When inspecting how the electricity flows through the property, workers found that the lights for the parking lot aren’t on their own panel as is typically done with commercial property, but are connected through the grocery store. This would shift the lights to a different panel.

Other work included adding a time clock, changing ductwork due to plan revisions, repairs to the overhead door and dock leveler, and replacing damaged metal wall panels.

The new costs push the contingency expenses to $50,725, or a third of the fund set aside.

Once the building is renovated, the plan is to move the tax department in with a drive-through window for quick payments.

Other local, state and federal agencies could move out of existing spaces into the building such as the Board of Elections, Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.