Architects make their pitch for courthouse work

Published 8:13 pm Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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A trio of architectural firms was invited on Monday to a joint meeting of the Franklin City Council and Southampton County Board of Supervisors in the Regional Workforce Development Center at Camp Community College. After a winnowing process last month, the companies had been selected to present their qualifications, ideas and approximate cost to renovate the Southampton County Courthouse.

First up was CJMW Architecture from Lynchburg. Emmet Lifsey, AIA, a principal with the firm, told the two panels, “We know historic buildings very, very well,” and pointed to examples of the work that CJMW has performed on courthouses in Charlotte County (1820) and Danville (1873).

“We would be able to serve you well,” said Lifsey, who recognized the importance of such buildings in localities. “They contain the memories of that community.”

Ronnie West, vice chairman of the county board, asked if a judge’s instructions have ever entered into the any of the firm’s courthouse projects, to which Lifsey acknowledged yes.

City councilman Bobby Cutchins asked if judges can ask for more — more being space, for example.

“Judges do have the bottom line,” was the reply, later answering Councilman McLemore’s question if the firm ever consults with judges. “Yes. We’re going to have a conversation.”

Lifsey recommended a temporary facility be set up to hold court business whilst the renovations are being done.

“We have the capacity to do the project right now,” the architect.

Board chairman Dallas Jones asked how much did CJMW figure the work could cost — the figure being non-binding. But there had apparently been a previous miscommunication on this topic, and Lifsey said he couldn’t give an answer at the moment; he would soon provide such within a day or two.

Glave & Holmes, working in partnership with Silling Architects, were next. Tom Potts, one of the representatives, said if they get the work, it would be “a well-managed process,” and outlined some of the necessary steps, such as performing an assessment of the building and cost of services.

As with their competitors, Glave & Holmes have had experience with historic buildings, such as the 1906 courthouse in Buchanan County or the one in Russell County (1874).

“We want to leave no stone unturned,” the council and board was told.

The firms’ total estimated cost was presented at $8 million.

Having worked with the County on the matter before several years ago, PMA Architecture has already been aware of the situation in getting the courthouse renovated according to specifications required by judges.

Mediation was recommended as an early step because “all issues need to be resolved,” according to Jeff Stodghill, company president.

The estimated cost was not spoken aloud, but instead handed to the respective city and county administrators.

Southampton administrator Mike Johnson told the paper there will next be an evaluation matrix, scoring on criteria such as understanding the project, showing past experience and providing an estimate. A negotiation team composed of two members from each governing body will be formed by Nov. 25. That team will begin meeting with the first firm in December. If an agreement cannot be reached, then it’s on to the second firm.