Supervisors ironing out courthouse upgrades

Published 12:21 pm Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors and PMA Architecture are finalizing plans and preparing to bid sometime this month financing for upgrades to the Southampton County Courthouse. Several county constitutional officers pitched ideas to architect Jeff Stodghill in advance of last month’s supervisors meeting in hopes of solidifying the courthouse’s security measures.

“I met with the circuit court judges, clerk of courts and commonwealth’s attorney, and they have requested a number of different elements,” Stodghill said. “One of which came from the clerk of courts office for adding bullet-resistant glass around the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, as well as the clerk’s office.”

The area in which the clerk, Richard Francis, referenced is nearly 400 square feet of glass, Stodghill said.

“If we were to put bullet-resistant glass in there, the budget for that is approaching $95,000,” he said, noting that type of glass costs approximately $240 per square foot. “That includes pulling the glass out and putting in the new frames and the much more expensive bullet-resistant glass.”

Stodghill also suggested a hybrid solution, which would cut the project cost in half.

“I think we can come up with a hybrid [where we’re] using brick and a reduced area of glass to come up with a lower figure,” he said. “I think that’s worth exploring as a way of cutting that figure down and still get light in their offices and address their concerns about having bullet-resistant glass.”

If the hybrid solution is chosen, Stodghill explained that the process would become more complicated because of the additional steps.

“It would bring the cost somewhere down to the $50,000 range,” he said. “But if we simply replace the glass, that’s one subcontractor that can do that in one fell swoop. If we do the hybrid solution, it’s three subcontractors that have to come in and then it’s a more complicated assembly.”

Supervisor Barry Porter of the Franklin-Hunterdale District said the difference in price is glaring, but also wondered whether the length of the hybrid project could be detrimental to the security of those the whole project is meant to protect.

“When we’re talking about $50,000 versus $100,000, I don’t know which is better,” Porter said, “It’s hard to make a decision when you say you don’t want to complicate the process when you talk about bringing in several contractors who are going to take several weeks versus a couple days. You’ve got exposure for a couple weeks versus a couple days.”

Stodghill said that the more expensive option is “clearly the most direct, quickest way to do this,” but added “if the number wasn’t so high, I wouldn’t even be talking to you about this.”

The supervisors ultimately approved a measure for PMA Architecture to determine the actual prices of each option, which Stodghill is expected to present at September’s supervisors meeting.