An old deal creates problems for courthouse project

Apr. 24—A condition attached to a long-completed construction project at the Daviess County Courthouse could wind up adding significant cost to the current renovation project.

The issue centers around the windows the county would use to replace the outdated century-old windows currently in use.

"Finding the new windows and installing the new windows is not the problem. We have that fixed," said Daviess County Commissioner Nathan Gabhart. "What we are battling is that nine years ago we got a grant for the skylight. It was a $50,000 grant. It included a 10-year covenant that we will not destroy or change the look of the courthouse. We agreed because we would not do that. Fast forward and the architect found the agreement and said we need to get approval from the Indiana State Historical Society. We went through that process and that is where it got complicated."

The single pane windows now in place are so energy inefficient that they are like having nothing in place to stop heat from leaving the building.

Modern windows can be made to work better, but the state historical society requires the look to be consistent with the original windows.

"They want us to get a window with the exact same shadow profile, exact same beveled putty line on the glass. These are 110-year-old windows," said Gabhart. "The window we want we now have to get approved by the state historical society. If they do not approve our choice the alternative is about $175,000 more."

Local officials have looked into repaying that grant in order to get the window problem resolved.

"We offered to just return the grant money. We did that two years ago," said Gabhart. "Turns out that is not an option. We can't just pay them back and get out of it."

A representative from the state will be looking at the courthouse Friday morning. If they approve the new window that would solve the issues on the project.

If there is no approval then the county is entertaining an option that is all about timing.

"It is a 10-year covenant that expires in September of 2025. The courthouse project is due to be completed in May of 2025," said Gabhart. "We could just wait until the covenant expires and then we could put in the less expensive windows. It would be bad, but we could save that money."

The commissioners have once again tabled a proposal to sell the old county highway salt building on the city's west side. After months of bidding and rebidding the county is now looking at a bid that satisfies the minimum amount.

"When we advertised it for sale originally no one met the minimum bid. According to the rules we couldn't automatically sell it then. Since we followed the rules, now we have a bid for $30,000 more, that meets the minimum bid," said Gabhart. "We have a joint meeting coming up with the council next month. We are going to make a decision at that meeting on May 8. Worst case now is that we sell it for $95,000 instead of $65,000 unless we get a higher bid between now and then."

In other business, the commissioners tabled a bid of $66,539 for a machine to paint lines on county roads.

The commissioners approved an agreement with the Solid Waste District to exchange an old pick-up truck for $7,000 in stone.

The commissioners also approved the addition of a $2,900 handrail to the steps at the main entrance to the annex.