First phase of Catoosa County Courthouse renovations to take 6 months

First phase of Catoosa County Courthouse renovations to take 6 months

June 4th, 2014 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

The Catoosa County Courthouse stands in downtown Ringgold, Ga.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

RINGGOLD, Ga. - In about six months, staff will run out of room to store files at the Superior Court clerk's office in Catoosa County, Ga.

Fortunately, by then a Chattanooga contractor should be well into renovations at the county courthouse in downtown Ringgold -- including building second-floor storage space on the roof of the 911 call center. The storage will be used by the Superior Court clerk's office, which has filing cabinets stacked to the ceiling.

"I'm just glad they're going forward," court Clerk Tracy Brown said. "We have about six months' [of space left]."

The Catoosa County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to pay $742,683 to low bidder Construction Consultants Inc., to finish phase one of the courthouse renovation in 175 working construction days, or just under six months.

Voters approved $1 million for courthouse repairs in 2009 as part of a special purpose local option sales tax of 1 cent per $1 of sales. Because of lower-than-expected retail sales, the tax actually generated around $800,000.

The courthouse complex consists of two buildings: a 1939, two-story brick colonial revival building fronting Nashville Street that's connected by an elevated walkway to the second floor of a 1980s-era brick addition on LaFayette Street.

Phase one work includes giving a face-lift to restrooms and other public areas and enlarging the south entry lobby on LaFayette Street so people won't have to line up outside while waiting to go through metal detectors. Other work includes installing new drains and waterproofing in the old court's flood-prone basement.

For wheelchair users, navigating the courthouse complex is difficult. A wheelchair ramp is the only way to reach the first floor of the old courthouse. There's no elevator in the old building. So the phase one renovations call for installing a wheelchair lift in a new enclosure between the two buildings.

County officials plan to do a second phase of courthouse renovations, including the restoration of lighted clocks in its cupola. The clocks were removed years ago, and the cupola now is covered with plain, white siding. Major phase two work includes building second-story courtroom space on top of what was the former jail. Voters approved $2.2 million in phase two courthouse renovations as part of a $60 million special purpose local option sales tax passed in March 2013.

County commissioners asked staff if it made sense to do both phases at once, but county Manager Mike Helton said that would overwhelm the busy courthouse.

"It's going to be a chore if we try to do both phases at the same time," Helton told commissioners Tuesday morning.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfree or or 423-757-6651.