The Hall County Board of Supervisors needs to make a decision.
What do they want the Hall County court system and our historic courthouse to look like 10 years from now?
About 19 years ago, they had a renovation and expansion plan. It wasn’t used.
Five years ago, they had two preferred plans for an addition to the courthouse. They couldn’t pick one and take the next step. All they decided to do was replace the courthouse’s heating and air conditioning system.
Since then, maintenance and renovation projects have been completed in a piecemeal fashion. But there has been no serious discussion, even, of building an addition to the courthouse to address the remaining space needs for the court system and the lifespan of the 1904 courthouse.
When the board met on Tuesday and discussed the most recent deficiencies of the courthouse that have come to light, it was encouraging that at least a couple members of the board were willing to discuss the fact that, if they’re going to undertake an extensive project to address fire safety issues, perhaps it should be part of a larger renovation and expansion plan.
A Band-Aid approach isn’t good enough and it’s not responsible caretaking for the county’s historic courthouse.
The board voted unanimously to have architect Brad Kissler of CMBA Architects complete two separate studies to consider changes to the outside stairs of the courthouse and a refuge area for the handicapped to use in case of fire, as well as determine the cost of a fire suppression system for the courthouse.
But Supervisors Gary Quandt — who has been on the board since 2008, as well as from 1986 to 1994 — and Butch Hurst — who was just elected to the board last November — made the point at the meeting that spending a million dollars or more on a fire suppression system now without considering whether an expansion project in the future could impact the need for that system is ridiculous.
“We are kicking the can down the road. We are going to keep throwing money at this building and we are still not going to get any more room. It is something I think we need to address,” Hurst said.
The board can’t ignore the fire safety issues at the courthouse, but it must be willing to answer a much bigger question about the future of this historic building.
What needs to be done to extend the life of the courthouse for decades more and how can they get it done?