Construction crews have begun a $13.4 million renovation of the Beaufort County Courthouse three years after the county won a legal settlement because of faulty stucco on the building.
The project by Fraser Construction of Bluffton will involve closing the first-floor covered walkway, replacing the facade and roof, and installing new doors and windows. When it's finished, the building will have about 8,800 square feet of new office space.
"We have had water intrusion within the building," Bryan Hill, deputy county administrator, said Friday. "We are renovating the building, which includes an exterior facelift and replacing steel studs within several areas in the courthouse."
The building will remain open during the project, although visitors will be routed around the construction, according to Joy Nelson, county spokeswoman. Direction signs have been installed.
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"This work will continue without a disruption in service," Hill said.
Water damage was first discovered not long after the courthouse opened about 28 years ago. A subsequent investigation found water damage to drywall, windowsills and other interior and exterior components. The full extent of the damage is still unknown because it is hidden behind walls and ceilings.
In 2009, the county received a nearly $7 million settlement from contractors because of the courthouse's faulty construction.
The county jail and administrative building also have sustained water damage over the years. Those buildings are not part of this renovation.
The county plans to spend the $5.5 million left from the stucco settlement on the renovation. About $5 million initially slated for the St. Helena Island library's construction, which was no longer needed when that project received state and federal grants, will be directed toward the courthouse project. The county borrowed the remaining $3 million needed for the project.
Aside from structural and design improvements to the roof and water-damaged windows, the 15-month renovation includes aesthetic changes. The faux-stucco facade will be replaced with a brick veneer, and the main lobby and entrance will become larger and brighter with a two-story entryway. A second-floor patio will be closed off and converted to offices.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.