After months of review, the Auglaize County Commissioners agreed to accept more than $1.3 million in stimulus money to help pay for renovations at the courthouse.
The commissioners signed an agreement Thursday accepting the money from the Ohio Department of Development for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. The funding will pay for energy upgrades at the courthouse, including lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), and the installation of a solar electric system.
The commissioners received word several months ago they qualified for funding they applied for in November. The commissioners have since reviewed the fine print of the agreement to ensure it included no stipulations with which they did not feel comfortable. Without the stimulus funding, Commissioner Doug Spencer said it would have been more than three years before the county could think about starting renovations to the building constructed in 1894.
He said the goal with renovation is to make the 19th century courthouse perform to 21st century justice requirements. Commissioner John Bergman said they’d like to continue moving forward with additional planning, including making a decision on where courthouse offices would be moved for a temporary location during the approximate year and a half renovation process.
They received this week the last of the recommendations and forms representatives of each office were asked to fill out during tours of five facilities last week.
“Within the next 30 days, after we talk, we will know a lot more,” Bergman said. “We want to sit down with (architect) Garmann-Miller for one last review with the office holders of what they want from renovations.” Late last week, the commissioners entered into a proposal with Perfection Group for professional services for the HVAC portion of courthouse renovations for an estimated cost of $1.1 million.
Perfection Group, which has implemented energy efficient improvements at other county buildings, offered a proposal for design and construction of a water source heat pump system for the courthouse.Their proposal would include construction documents prepared by its in-house engineers per outline specifications, as well as permit fees and a standard one-year design and installation warranty. Perfection Group also agreed to work closely with architect Garmann Milller & Associates, of Minster, throughout the design, installation, start-up and turn-over phases of the project, according to a resolution signed by commissioners.
If for any reason the project would not move forward or Perfection Group is not awarded the complete installation of the project for the quoted price, the commissioners agreed to pay a breakage fee of more than $53,000 for engineered documents.“It’s for the work they put in to date,” Bergman said. “They are doing the work per gratis so far.” He said the commissioners wanted to use Perfection Group’s expertise as they prepare for the project. “There’s so much planning to do,” Bergman said. “We needed help and regardless we plan to reimburse them for their services.
“We need to make sure we’re where we need to be in the grant process,” he said.
After putting a hold on renovation plans since 2006, the commissioners were spurred to the planning stages again earlier this year when they learned they had received stimulus funding to use for the project. The energy portion of renovations, for which the grant would provide funding, need to be done by the middle of 2012 and Bergman said courthouse offices could begin moving to temporary homes by the end of the year.
The commissioners plan to use more than $6 million set aside in a Permanent Improvement Fund until 2008 for other renovations to the building. Bergman said those additional renovations would include making the attic usable for additional office space, reconfiguring offices so those that communicate often are closer together, and creation of a single entry and exit point to the courthouse.
Additional renovations that would need to be done to the courthouse include plumbing upgrades, electric upgrades to support information technology and other new infrastructure, improved security, a generator to maintain a minimum standard, stained glass restoration, structural reinforcements specifically of two domes, painting, rehabilitation of wood finish, new furniture and filing equipment, and all new technological equipment. Representatives of Garmann-Miller plan to meet with county officials within the next few weeks and review a list of work to be completed. That’s also when a tentative timeline is expected to be redefined.
Bergman said he’d like to see the project bid out by the beginning of 2011. He said with the downturn in the economy, the bidding climate is favorable and they are hoping that work might come in below estimate, as well as the fact more contractors are available at job sites so work might move along more quickly. “It’s really past the time we thought we’d like to start on renovations,” Bergman said. “The grant is the big impetus now, shoring up the shortfall we had in the permanent improvement fund.”