With most of the exterior brickwork completed, workers renovating the Beaufort County Courthouse are shifting their focus to interior upgrades that began several weeks ago.
County spokeswoman Joy Nelson said offices and courtrooms are getting new ceiling tiles, carpet and other aesthetic improvements. The lobby also is getting a facelift.
Contractors from Fraser Construction will enclose the building's covered walkway and several patios, creating 8,800 square feet of new space. The $14-million project began last August and is due to wrap up by Christmas.
Meanwhile, the $850,000 project to convert the former county Disabilities and Special Needs building on Old Shell Road in Port Royal into a coroner's facility also is underway. That job is expected to be finished in December.
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"These projects are moving along very well," said Mark Roseneau, the county's facilities management director. "Recent, above-average rainfall has slowed construction down somewhat, but we're pleased with the work the contractors for both projects have done so far."
Water damage was first discovered in the courthouse soon after it opened about 29 years ago. A subsequent building inspection uncovered water damage to drywall, windowsills and other interior and exterior components.
The county received nearly $7 million in a legal settlement four years ago from the original contractors because of the faulty construction.
The renovation was paid for using $5.5 million remaining from the stucco settlement. Another $5 million initially intended for the St. Helena Library project -- money no longer needed after state and federal grants were awarded -- was redirected to the courthouse work. The rest was borrowed.
In addition to the facade replacement, the lobby will be made grander with the ceiling raised two stories high. An outside covered walkway will be enclosed. A second-floor patio also will be enclosed and converted into offices.
The courthouse has remained open throughout the construction, with few problems, Nelson said.
However, the project was slowed earlier this month when contractors broke a waterline in an upstairs office. The flooding was controlled, and the office has been repaired at no cost to the county, Nelson said.
Attempts Friday to reach Clerk of Court Jerri Roseneau for comment on the interior work were unsuccessful. She and Mark Roseneau, the county's facilities management director, are married.
Coroner Ed Allen and his staff work out of a former Hurricane Katrina relief trailer parked off Shanklin Road, near the county's public works facility.
Their new office in Port Royal will be much larger, with more space for records and offices. About two-thirds of the 6,300-square-foot building will become office space for Allen and his eight employees. The Victim and Juvenile Services unit of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office also will be stationed there.
The remaining 2,000 square feet will be used for the county's first morgue, which will be able to hold eight bodies.
Money for the project comes from cash remaining from bond sales dating to 2002.
Although a trained pathologist will conduct some autopsies at the new morgue, suspicious deaths and homicides will continue to be handled by the medical examiner at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
The renovation "is going fine," Allen said Friday. "Everything is on schedule and is progressing well. Hopefully, we'll be in it by December."
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.