The Hall County Board of Supervisors made the right decision last week when it decided to hire an architect to assist the county in addressing fire safety issues at the Hall County Courthouse.
Grand Island Fire Prevention Chief Fred Hotz has warned the county that there is a serious safety concern there. If a fire broke out, it would be extremely difficult to evacuate people from the second and third floors. At times, there could be nearly 200 people on the third floor.
This is a potentially dangerous situation that could put many lives at risk. So the county doesn’t want to cut corners when it comes to addressing the issue.
Hotz has suggested that the county install a fire suppression system in the courthouse that would involve a sprinkler system. Also there is a concern about the lack of fire escapes in the building.
Another major factor in the decision is the historical nature of the Hall County Courthouse. It was built in 1904 and is acclaimed for its architecture and design and the beautiful rotunda and clock tower. Renowned architect Thomas Rogers Kimball designed it in the Beaux Arts style. The courthouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977.
In addition to being extremely important for safety reasons, a fire suppression system would need to be installed in a way that preserves the historical nature of the building. So it must be carefully designed to meet both safety concerns and preservation requirements.
This will not be an easy task, so it is important that the county get the expert assistance of an architect in designing the system.
While it might be expensive, it’s important that the fire safety measures be done right and that the issue get resolved in a timely manner. The county can’t skimp on the safety of the people using the courthouse and the county employees who work there.
As we’ve written before, it would be best that any courthouse improvements be done as part of the bigger picture of addressing the county’s needs as far as space and functionality of the courthouse.
However, the county board has been discussing the criminal justice needs of the county for 25 years and has failed to agree on a plan to expand the courthouse.
It has improved the heating and cooling system and made other improvements to the courthouse in recent years, though. It is good that the supervisors are now taking the fire safety concerns seriously and making progress on addressing them.