County officials yet to decide whether to renovate courthouse

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comNovember 5, 2011 

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Beaufort County officials could decide this month whether to recommend going forward with a $13- million renovation of the county's courthouse.

Beaufort County Administrator Gary Kubic said he met with his staff last week and instructed them to gather more information on possible contractors to perform the work. He plans to report back soon to the Beaufort County Council.

The county might be "better off re-bidding the entire project," Kubic said.

Fraser Construction of Beaufort was the only one of five contractors pre-qualified for the project to submit a bid earlier this year, according to county officials.

The Beaufort County Detention Center and county administration building also are included in the job.

Kubic said he is worried damage to the courthouse caused by faulty stucco applied to the building when it was built in the early 1990s could be worse than engineers believe, causing the project to go over budget.

"This project requires much more than just re-skinning the building or replacing the roof," Kubic said. "I want to make sure that I know, to the extent possible, that if we start at $13 million, we will finish at $13 million. There are never any guarantees, but I want to make sure we've done all of our homework before I recommend that we move forward with this project."

County officials have said the courthouse needs a new roof, exterior and window work. It might also need more substantial framing to repair damage caused by the faulty stucco. The county sued 11 contractors in 2004, arguing that the stucco finish led to water damage. It received an $8.2 million settlement in 2008.

After paying attorneys fees, the county has more than $6 million for renovations.

If county officials decide to move forward, they probably would sell bonds to make up the $7 million difference, county officials have said.

Glick/Boehm and Associates, a Charleston architecture firm hired by the county to design the courthouse, estimated it would take more than a year to complete the renovations.

The work includes replacing the crumbling stucco facade with brick in an attempt to achieve the look of the 19th- and early 20th-century courthouses once common in the Lowcountry.

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