After four years of laying the financial foundation and the past six months of design layout and courthouse alterations, the installation of the new elevator at the Audrain County Courthouse is nearing completion. The elevator cage and other materials arrived last week, with work starting immediately. Commissioners anticipate the system will be in place and operating next month.
"It was really exciting to see the actual physical elevator (arrive) today," Audrain County Commissioner Steve Hobbs said. "A lot of work has been done over the last few months to get ready for this day. They told us that they would be here about 12 working days installing the elevator itself. So there will be a lot of activity going on in the next few weeks."
After the elevator is installed, Hobbs said more work inside the courthouse is needed before the elevator can be opened for public use.
"The only thing left would be to finish the drywall and restore the marble and facade of the elevator to make it look like it was the original equipment on the front," Hobbs said. After that, he said the contractors plan to remove the old elevator and make storage rooms on each of the floors where the elevator once opened.
A small room will also be constructed beside the elevator to house courthouse history, memorabilia and documentation of the recent restoration done on the 61-year-old courthouse – which meets the requirements to be on the National Registry of Historical Places.
Hobbs said there were only a few delays throughout the whole process.
"Everything has gone really smooth, but in dealing with the perimeters of an old building like this, we had to get a variance on the pipes in the mechanical room and have a hood put in, in case water leaks, which was time consuming because everything in the process had to be done in steps."
But he added, "We are very pleased with the contractor's work."
Audrain County qualified for $215,190 public needs grant under the Community Development Block Grant program to help make ADA improvements and do the elevator replacement. Though the project has called for several change orders, Hobbs said the commission was very pleased with the bids when they came in.
The elevator project, Hobbs said, was part of a "master plan of needs" for the courthouse. The next focus will be the replacement of the sidewalks surrounding the courthouse, tuckpoint work on the exterior of the courthouse, a landscaping project and making the courthouse completely ADA accessible. Currently, the building is only ADA accessible on one side. The plan is to go after grants that will help defray some of the expense.
"This is a beautiful old building. If we spend a little extra money now, maybe it will serve our community another 61 years," Hobbs said.
Page 2 of 2 - This is the fourth Audrain County Courthouse; the first was built in 1837 on a lot south of the square. The large square lot the current courthouse sits on is the original courthouse square; it housed two other courthouses before this one was built in 1951.