Woodford County

At 5, he saw the courthouse burn. Five decades later, he’s leading repairs of clock tower

Aerial photo of the Woodford County Courthouse under renovation as of July 21, 2017.
Aerial photo of the Woodford County Courthouse under renovation as of July 21, 2017.

Rick Wade remembers when Woodford County’s third courthouse was destroyed by a 1965 fire. Now he has an important role in repairing the fourth courthouse that opened in 1970.

As county maintenance superintendent, Wade is overseeing the project that will replace the roof and the clock tower’s wood structure. Work will also be done on gutters and corner blocks, some of which are easing out from their settings.

The price for the project is about $1 million, nearly equal to the amount spent to build the entire three-floor courthouse between 1968 and 1970.

The roof work is a significant undertaking for Woodford Fiscal Court, which has a $17.5 million annual budget. The county government is financing the project with a seven-year loan through the Kentucky Association of Counties.

Wade, 56, was 5 years old when the previous courthouse burned. He watched the flames and firefighters from the building now occupied by Madison’s on Main restaurant.

“It was pretty impressive from a 5-year-old’s standpoint,” Wade said. “I remember a lot of hoses in the street and a lot of people working frantically” to move furniture out of the courthouse.

rick wade
Rick Wade, maintenance superintendent for Woodford County, remembers the 1965 fire that destroyed the county’s third courthouse. Now he is overseeing work that is being done on the roof and clock tower of the fourth courthouse. Greg Kocher gkocher1@herald-leader.com

Fast forward to today, and a courthouse in need of repairs. The clock works fine, but the larvae of wood-boring beetles chewed through the tower’s wood, making parts of it unstable.

“That was my biggest fear, that high winds would blow panels out,” Wade said. “Safety was the driving factor behind this. …When we had any high wind, there was a lot of anxiety from my standpoint.”

Wade felt there was enough urgency that he asked for and received an emergency declaration from fiscal court, which meant that the project was not competitively bid.

“I think the court took the appropriate action,” said Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle.

courthouse exterior
Scaffolding was erected in late June on the south side of the Woodford County courthouse in preparation for work on the roof and clock tower. This is the county’s fourth courthouse. It opened in 1970 after fire destroyed the county’s third courthouse in 1965. Greg Kocher gkocher1@herald-leader.com

Congleton-Hacker Co. of Lexington is the general contractor on the project. Roofing will be done by Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal of Louisville. Bates Building Maintenance of Corbin will address masonry issues, and painting will be done by McKinney Painting of Versailles.

Scaffolding was erected on the courthouse’s south side in late June. The project is supposed to be finished in October.

“I think people will be proud of it when it’s finished,” Coyle said. “When people come downtown, the courthouse is the premier building that you make reference to. The repairs that we’re getting done now have been needed for quite some time.”