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Millions added

Construction problems have increased courthouse annex fixes by about $2 million

Construction problems have increased courthouse annex fixes by about $2 million

August 30, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Construction obstacles at the Washington County Courthouse Annex have driven up renovation costs by more than $2 million, and the expense could continue to rise before the project is completed.

The county puts the latest cost at $6.51 million, up from the $4.18 million contract the commissioners awarded to Callas Contractors in July 2004.

County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer told the County Commissioners on Tuesday that another $250,000 could be added to the total cost by the time the project is completed, depending on whether crews run into any more problems.

The problems that have arisen during the renovation have extended the project's timeline, Rohrer said.

The commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to shift $560,000 from within the capital budget to cover a shortfall for the courthouse project.

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"This is just awful," Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said as the commissioners voted.

"Let's try and finish this as ASAP as possible," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Much of the headaches have been caused by asbestos jarred loose by construction. That resulted in additional abatement and inspection costs.

The asbestos forced three judges' chambers on the third floor of the annex to be temporarily moved to another floor while crews cleaned it up.

Renovations began in late 2004 and include adding a courtroom for a fifth judge and increasing the number of holding cells.

An elevator to transport prisoners and an access ramp with a snow-melt system, which will be used in moving prisoners from vans to new basement holding cells, also are planned.

The elevator will be used to keep prisoners out of courthouse hallways, and away from employees and the public. The county decided to add the elevator to the project, mainly because of safety concerns after a deadly shooting in an Atlanta courthouse.

Snook originally estimated the project to be completed some time in fiscal year 2006, but that was before the problems began.

Fiscal year 2006 ended June 30.

"When do you think we can put this project to rest and say, 'Done?'" County Commissioner John C. Munson asked Tuesday.

Project Manager Gary Pozzouli said the work to the inside of the building should be completed by the end of the year, and the exterior work, including the ramp, would be finished in late spring.

Court Place Alley, which runs between the annex and Hagerstown Trust, has been closed since spring because of the repairs.

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