• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Courthouse to get $1 million renovation

THE CLOCK TOWER atop the Woodford County Courthouse, which was dedicated in 1970, has seen far better days. County Maintenance Superintendent Rick Wade said he expects work on the clock tower, roof, gutters and quoins of the building to begin June 26 and take 16 weeks to complete. (Photo by John McGary)

In a special meeting Wednesday, May 31, Woodford Fiscal Court voted 5 to 1 to spend an estimated $1 million to renovate the clock tower and install a new roof on the top of the county courthouse.

The project will also include gutter repair and an examination and repair of several quoins on two corners of the building.

Magistrate Duncan Gardiner (Dist. 6) voted "no." Magistrates Linda Popp (Dist. 1) and Ken Reed (Dist. 4) were not present.

After a presentation by Maintenance Superintendent Rick Wade about the state of the clock tower and some of the building's quoins on April 11, the court voted to declare an emergency. Wade has since repeated his concerns about the possibility of strong winds blowing pieces of the clock tower away and threatening pedestrians.

The emergency declaration allowed the court to speed up the repair process and, if deemed necessary for the sake of speed, not to put the project up for bid. Magistrates were given a report from the Lexington engineering firm BFMJ with two estimates: $898,000 to restore the clock tower, replace the copper roof with a new one and repair or replace the quoins and gutters; and $756,000 for the same work - but with the clock tower replaced by a new, mini-roof. The prices did not include BFMJ's fee of $99,000. (The cost of the entire building, clock tower included, was $914,250 when it was dedicated on Sept. 26,1970 - a little less than five years after it was destroyed by fire.) The court voted for the $898,000 package, and at the May 31 special meeting, Judge-Executive John Coyle reminded the court several times of the emergency status of the project and recited the state law on the subject.

"I want the court's input for immediate steps to address the declared emergency. ... In my mind, it's not proper to declare an emergency situation and then go through the bid process and not act on it immediately," Coyle said.

Coyle and County Attorney Alan George echoed Wade's concerns about the effect of high winds on the clock tower.

Gardiner said he supported the emergency declaration, but added that he'd spoken to an engineer who's worked on projects needing a quick turn-around who said that bidding was still allowed. He asked Ethan Buell, the principal of BFMJ, about his experience with such projects. Buell said he'd worked on four or five projects with emergency status, and that in each case, they didn't go up for bid. He said Congleton-Hacker, the Lexington firm that will do the work with the help of subcontractors, had done an emergency project at Kentucky State University and fixed more than the school had paid for. Asking for a bid from a second contractor would add at least a week to the courthouse work, he said.

Magistrate C.L. Watts (Dist. 2) asked Buell if he thought the county had an emergency. Buell, a Woodford County resident, said "yes."

Watts said sometimes, low bids were not the best.

Magistrate Mary Ann Gill (Dist. 7) said, "This is a safety issue, and every day that we delay this increases our chance of someone getting hurt. And yes, a second bid would be good, but a lawsuit's going to cost us a whole lot more than maybe a $100,000 difference (between bids), if it's even that much."

Magistrate Jackie Brown (Dist. 8) expressed reservations about the no-bid process, but in the end, voted "yes" along with four of the other five members present.

Monday, Wade told The Sun that workers have been using "rat wire" to secure rotting wood for months. Shortly after Wednesday'smeeting, contractors began laser-mapping the courthouse from atop nearby buildings. Wade said he expects scaffolding to go up around the building on June 26, which will likely take up more than a half-dozen parking spaces around the southern portion of the building.

The project is expected to take 16 weeks to complete, and Wade said he hoped it's finished before his scheduled knee replacement Nov. 1.

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