County officials show off renovated courthouse

County officials show off renovated courthouse

Five- year- long facelift for historic building celebrated with special gathering

news@theeveningtimes.com

Residents used to come in to county courthouse and complain about the smell.

Not any more.

After $250,000 in renovations over the last five years, residents can once again be proud of their courthouse.

County officials hosted an open house last Thursday to show off the results of a multi-year facelift project to return the building to its former luster.

“This is a project that started a little over five years ago,” Wheeless said.

“We’ve done every office — the clerk’s office, Veterans Affairs, Election Office, Emergency Management, Records, and now my office.”

The courthouse was built in 1911 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, but was starting to get run down and show its age.

The Quorum Court appropriated money for a new heating and air system, repaired the elevator, and went room-by-room renovating each office space on the first floor tearing out all of the old wood paneling and replacing the flooring and adding new lighting.

The county body also put up money for a new phone system, new chairs in the Quorum Court chamber, new carpet, installed audio visual equipment for multimedia presentations, and tore off the old paneling in the corridor and installed new flooring leading to the chambers.

“The building definitely needed it,” Wheeless said.

“It’s 107 years old, but the building is structurally sound. There was no reason for us to consider tearing it down or building a new one. There just hasn’t been a whole lot of remodeling going in here. Thankfully the Quorum Court saw the need and appropriated the funds for us to do it.”

Wheeless said the difference is like night and day.

“People who came in here used to say it was smelly,” Wheeless said. “Today they don’t say that. Everybody is talking about how nice it looks. It needed some loving and that’s what we’ve done.”

Justice Lisa O’Neal said she is so proud to see the building looking good again.

“Doesn’t it look gorgeous?” O’Neal said. “The Judge and the Quorum Court have really come together to make our courthouse look nice again. It’s a lot better for our employees and a lot more user friendly for the public.”

O’Neal presented Wheeless with a special platter signed by all of the county officials and employees to signify all of the positive changes enacted since he became County Judge.

“The way the platter came about is Justice Robert Thorne is always calling me and saying ‘you need to do this. You need to do that.’ I would joke with him and say ‘well, my plate is full,’” Wheeless said. “He would say ‘well, we will get you a platter.’ So now I have a platter and can take on some more chores.”

Wheeless said the renovations could not have taken place without the full support of the Quorum Court.

“The Quorum Court saw the same vision that I saw and we worked together and they appropriated the funds to make it happen,” Wheeless said.

“It wouldn’t have happened without you,” Justice Claude “Shorty” Steele added.

Wheeless said the next phase will be to move upstairs and renovate both court rooms and the upstairs

offices.

The county also plans to do some work on the outside of the building as well. They have received a $98,000 grant to paint the exterior and will also be replacing windows as well.

“We’re going to continue working on it,” Wheeless said.

By Mark Randall

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