County Buildings Get a Make-Over

Clarke County is in the middle of public building makeover of sorts. As completion of one courthouse renovation nears and another expands, the argument over who’s responsible for a faulty heating and cooling system in the new joint government center complex continues to simmer.

Courthouse Nears Completion

Clarke County administrator David Ash told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that renovation work being performed by Hammerhead Construction on the historic courthouse complex is nearly complete. Ash said that the only task left to finish is installation of sound attenuation material in the dome of the court room, a task that Ash said would have been completed several weeks ago were it not for one minor detail.

“When the sound attenuation material arrived it was shipped as a single dome unit” Ash told the Supervisors. “The construction crew took one look at this huge unit and knew that there was no way that it would come close to fitting through the door.”

Ash assured the Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell), who raised the question of who was responsible for the error, that the design mistake was being handled at the contractor’s expenses and that the new sound deadening panels would soon be installed in the courtroom dome.

Leaky Clerk’s Office to Receive Attention

Supervisor Michael Hobert (Berryville) asked Ash whether a chronic leak related to air conditioning condensation in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations clerk’s office was being addressed.

Ash acknowledged that the leak, which has been an ongoing source of frustration for staff in the court clerk’s office, is an ongoing problem that maintenance crews have attempted to resolve numerous times.

Ash said that the court clerk has been notified that maintenance crews will need to remove a section of the ceiling in the office and replace the air handling ductwork in order to fix the problem once and for all.

Because of the extent of the repairs, which Ash said will require three to four days of work, the county and the court clerk are attempting to find a window of opportunity to schedule the repairs when court is not in session.

HVAC at County Office Building Still Not Corrected

The “new” county office building is getting to the point where it really isn’t that new anymore.  Nearly three years after the building’s completion, issues related to the facility’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, that make working in the facility challenging for county and town staff, have still not been resolved despite numerous meetings between county staff, the county’s lawyer and the architect for the project, Baughan and Baukhages Architects  of Lurray, Virginia, and construction contractor Brechbill & Helman Construction Company of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

After initial negotiations failed to resolve the problems earlier this year, county officials retained engineering firm Potomac Energy Group, Inc. (PEG) to document the problems and suggest solutions.

Now, as part of an attempt to remove some of the engineering issues that county officials believe are making it difficult to assign specific accountability for who ultimately will be responsible for the final costs of fixing the problem, Clarke County administrator David Ash said that the county and the two contractors – Baughan and Baukhages and  Brechbill & Helman – have each agreed to spend additional  funds in hopes of clarifying the responsibility issues.

“As part of the negotiations, the building owners [Clarke   County and the Town of Berryville] have agreed to advance additional funds in order to get a better idea of what the problems are” Ash said.

Ash confirmed that an additional $37,955 will be spent under the recommendation of the County’s engineering consultant Potomac Energy Group with one-third of the amount provided by the building’s owners and two-thirds provided by Baughan and Baukhages and  Brechbill & Helman.

“Our consultant agrees that the work being performed is necessary in order to get a better understanding of the problem” Ash said.

Ash also verified that even though the County is chipping in the additional money the County is reserving all rights to pursue the matter through litigation.

Such future litigation would likely include the opportunity to recover the funding advance.

With litigation over the HVAC matter being handled in closed sessions so far, Ash declined to comment on when the building’s heating and cooling problems might finally be corrected.