Renovation of building's interior now taking place
NEW MADRID - The solid stone exterior of the New Madrid County Courthouse belied what was happening inside. The interior, admitted county commissioners, was an eyesore.
But things are changing. And a new look - from top to bottom - is under way inside.
"It was deteriorating," said First District Commissioner Barry Bennett about the courthouse, originally constructed in 1915. There was plaster falling off walls, paint peeling and blinds and drapes rotting, the count official noted.
"It was almost depressing," Bennett added.
Presiding Commissioner Clyde Hawes agreed, admitting it was embarrassing when visitors would enter the building. "It looked like we were too poor to patch it up. We didn't want that. We wanted a building we could be proud of and we want the public to be proud of it," said Hawes.
Bennett and Hawes along with Second District Commissioner Sam Pikey decided now was the time to get something done about the courthouse interior. The men agreed because of the historical nature of the building and its significance to the county to hire a professional contractor and architect to oversee the renovations. William A. Green and Association of Malden and Mary A. Bell of Poplar Bluff were selected to oversee the work.
Bids were sought in the local newspapers and the architect contacted 13 contractors as well. In late 2001 the commissioners awarded the contract to the low bidder, Ryan Excavating Co. of Sikeston, who intends to complete the work for $189,000.
The project will include removing and replacing tile and carpets, sanding and refinishing woodwork, repairing the plaster walls and painting. Ceilings will be repainted and in some cases, replaced and new light fixtures installed where needed.
"We consider this is an asset to the county," said Hawes. "It is a lot of work but later on maybe our children will look back with pride on what we did."
Jim Beaird with Ryan Excavating described the project as "a good facelift." The company began work Dec. 26 and has contracted to complete the project in 272 working days.
But it is not a facelift without controversy. Other officeholders have expressed concern about the order of the repairs and the costs of some portions of the proposed improvements.
In order to facilitate the work, those with offices on the second floor have relocated. Temporarily the county prosecutor's office, treasurer's office and the juvenile office are located in the County Extension Building on Main Street. The circuit clerk and the circuit judge have moved their offices into the courtroom on the second floor.
County employees assisted with moving furniture. Also the county workers will remove, sandblast and repaint the radiators as part of the renovation project.
As renovation is completed on one floor, workers will move to another floor of the three-story building. Work is planned in every office except the new auditor's office and the office of the county assessor.
When complete the interior will have ceilings and "dental" work in white with cream-colored walls. Those walls with picture molding along the top will feature two shades of cream.
The contract noted plans call for a faux-marble finish to the columns in the building's rotunda, where some new lighting fixtures will be added.
When this work is complete, the commissioners said they plan to look into the possibility of updating the building's heating and cooling system, replacing the current oil/natural gas system with central heating and air-conditioning.
The lack of efficient heating and cooling and proposing to do the work second is part of the concerns of other officeholders in the courthouse.
"The core problems will still exist after the new carpet is laid and the walls are painted," said Circuit Clerk Marsha Holiman. "We still need to reconfigure the space to better accommodate our county offices and courts. We will still be without any retrofitting to protect the building from an earthquake. We will still need a more efficient way to heat and cool the building. We will still need to repair, restore or replace windows. We will still need to examine electrical needs."
In addition Holiman noted many of the ceilings in the building hold bird droppings and are in need of cleaning and replacing. The bird droppings, she stated, pose a health hazards to county employees.
"I love this magnificent building and when all is said and done and the superficial alterations are complete, I assure you my staff and I will be glad to have new paint, new carpeting and new office furnitures. These things alone will make our environs more appealing," said Holiman.
"Our forefathers built this building intending it to stand forever. Currently, I do not think we are demonstrating responsible stewardship. We should be restoring this remarkable building to withstand the next 100 years. I just hope our forefathers aren't looking."