Council members say final report will determine future plan for old courthouse

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comAugust 19, 2014 

Several members of the Urban County Council said Tuesday that they were dismayed that some areas of the former Fayette County Courthouse had deteriorated so badly that the shuttered Main Street building must be fenced off to protect the public.

"I am very disappointed that the city has not protected this historic building," council member Ed Lane said during a council meeting. "Our failure to properly protect this building is going to cost the taxpayers, too."

Council member Steve Kay agreed.

"This is another example of short-term savings versus long-term costs," Kay said.

The council members' comments came one day after a preliminary report from structural engineers showed that four balconies on the Cheapside and Upper Street sides of the 1900 building were beginning to come away from the building. Additionally, structural beams in the basement that extend almost to Short Street were deteriorating. The report showed that water exposure had caused the problems.

Jamshid Baradaran, the city's director of facilities and fleet management, said Tuesday that some form of fencing will probably be erected around the building beginning Wednesday. The report by structural engineers also recommended netting around the balconies to ensure that stone or other objects do not fall on people.

Baradaran said his staff was meeting Tuesday with representatives of the farmers market to ensure that the barriers don't interfere with the Saturday market.

The city also will have to block off much of the back of the courthouse because of the deteriorating support beams on the Short Street side, Baradaran said.

The courthouse was shuttered in 2012 because of asbestos and other hazardous materials. It has not been used as a courthouse since 2001, when the two new courthouses were completed.

The structural engineers' report is part of a larger structural analysis and historical review of the courthouse. The final report won't be completed until late fall. That report will give the city options on how to move forward, said Jeff Fugate, president of the Downtown Development Authority, which is overseeing the study.

The building is owned by the city.

"None of this was a surprise," Baradaran said of the structural engineers' report. The city had requested $300,000 to stabilize the building while a long-term plan can be developed.

Baradaran said it would cost between $1 and $5 million to raze the building.

Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said the city did not have money from 2008 to 2012 — the height of the recession — for the old courthouse. The report in the fall will give the council a better idea how to move forward on the courthouse, she said.

"The fact of the matter is ... we didn't have the money," Gorton said. "We need this study to give us good information so we can make the right decision as a council."

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

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