Renovations ahead for county courtrooms

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

Darlington County Council convened a brief special meeting last Friday to approve the next step toward renovating parts of the county courthouse.

In session only long enough to pray, pledge allegiance to the American flag, and vote once, council agreed to pay $42,228 for design and engineering firm Michael Baker Inc. (MBI) to formulate a renovation plan for the fourth and fifth floor court facilities.

For several years, judges and attorneys have lobbied County Council to address security concerns for all court facilities, including 4th Circuit Court proceedings and Family Court.

Each court facility has its own challenges — cramped quarters, dangerous proximity between opposing parties, judges and defendants crossing paths, etc.

County Administrator Charles Stewart says this plan will incorporate input from committees and meetings with staff regarding the needs and wants of each department.

“This document (MBI) will be putting together will build on all the conceptual work they’ve already done,” said Stewart. “It will take that information and fit in into a floor plan.”

According to the Scope of Work proposal submitted by MBI, the total project renovation area on floors 4 and 5 is approximately 17,298 square feet over two floors, each approximately 8,649 square feet.

The existing building is a multistory, nonsprinklered, protected steel-framed structure with a masonry finished exterior and casement windows. The structural grid and column spacing are approximately 18 feet on center, each way. There are five occupied stories above grade, a basement level and a mechanical penthouse.

The scope of this project only includes conceptual design of Floors 4 and 5. The basement, mechanical penthouse and floors 1 through 3 are specifically not included. It should be noted that the existing core of the building contains one elevator bank with two elevators (one elevator is currently not working; repair parts are on order), two fire exit stairs and two restrooms. The current restrooms are not ADAAG-compliant.

Additionally, there are known hazardous materials in this building. However, the intent of this work is a conceptual design and hazardous materials services are beyond the scope of this work.

The goal of this Scope of Work, conceptual Design Services for Floors 4 and 5, to investigate the existing facility for suitability to accommodate the recently programmed Courtroom and Court Administration Services spaces. This program is based upon a previous programming assessment conducted for the modernization of the court and administration facilities conducted by Michael Baker International.

The conceptual planning for the renovation of Floors 4 and 5 will be developed to respond to the needs of a modern court facility and supporting court administration offices to the extent feasible with the existing building structure.

The anticipated use of the spaces will include, but it not necessarily limited to Country Circuit Court Room and Grand Jury Assembly Room (combined use), Resident Circuit Court Judge’s Office(s), Clerk of Court, Family Court, Court Support Staff, Offices, Conference Rooms, Detainee Holding, Evidence Storage, etc.

All other floor functions (basement, floors 1 through 3 and penthouse) are beyond the scope of this contract and will remain ‘‘as is.”

The proposed schedule calls for MBI to submit a plan to Darlington County within 90 days.

Author: Rachel Howell

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