Tri-City Ledger -

By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

New courthouse in Escambia County?

Commissioners weighing options on needed repairs to Brewton courthouse; $13 million to build new one


July 5, 2018

Damage to the Escambia County Courthouse in Brewton in December, 2015, from a broken heating and cooling line has led to the discovery of more issues that now has the county commission looking at options that include building a new $13 million courthouse.

During an administrative workshop Tuesday Commission Chairman Raymond Wiggins said the courthouse has major issues, which is complicated by asbestos throughout the building.

Due to the damage caused by the broken pipe in 2015 the commission contracted with DAG Architects of Florida, which has an office in Pensacola. Dave Luttrell, Jack Baker and Joe Jones from DAG attended Tuesday's meeting.

Wiggins said people in the courthouse were asking for updates on the repairs and there were health concerns over the asbestos. He said he did a walk through on June 1 and said he was amazed at the damage he saw that was not related to the broken pipe.

He said he called Luttrell back in early June to make a reassessment of the damage to the courthouse that also includes a leaking roof that was replaced about five years ago.

Members of DAG did a complete walk through on June 6 and sent a letter to County Administrator Tony Sanks dated June 13 outlining the damage found and estimated costs to repair.

“It's overwhelming when you see the results,” Wiggins told the commission. “The dollars are astronomical. It's money we don't have, there's asbestos in the ceiling, floor and walls and there's also mold in the building.”

Wiggins said there are leaks throughout the piping system as well as leaks in the five-year old roof. Wiggins noted that the county had a two-year workmanship warranty on the roof, which has expired.

A total renovation of the courthouse is estimated at $10.2 million and $13 million to build a new courthouse at the same 44,000 square feet.

“Personally, I don't want to do either one,” Wiggins said. “But we have to do something to create a safe working environment. We can come in and fix what was damaged, but that would be a bandaid only. We'll have to deal with the problem again.”

Wiggins also said there are issues at the jail as that include overcrowding with twice as many inmates as the jail was designed for. He also said commissioners get calls every day about pot holes.

“There are so many needs, but not enough money,” Wiggins said. “But we have to do something on this issue.”

Wiggins also said he has a stack of letters concerning the American Disability Act requirements saying it will cost $400,000 to $500,000 to just bring the courthouse into ADA compliance.

Luttrell told the commission that they were there to help the commission make an informed decision.

He also said it was 'eye opening' when he looked at the entire building.

Commissioners David Stokes and Larry White, who both own insurance companies, said there was no way the commission should be addressing roof issues after only five years. Despite the warranty on the workmanship, both felt the contractor is still liable.

Luttrell noted the courthouse was built in 1959 for one judge, noting the county now has three judges and three staffs.

He said the first step needs to be an extensive interview with department heads to determine the needs of each office in terms of space. He said the cost of the needs assessment would be between $20,000 and $25,000. Luttrell also said the information gathered would be used whether the commission opted for renovation or new construction.

He said if it is renovation, it would be done one floor at a time and the offices on those floors would have to be vacated for six to eight months. He said it would take about two years to get the building back to a good safe environment.


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