Bids postponed in courthouse renovation project

Published 6:22 am Monday, July 5, 2021

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The timeline of the Southampton County courthouse renovation project has been pushed back a couple weeks, but activity has nevertheless begun to ramp up.

The county will be moving a variety of court operations to Hunterdale Elementary School in Franklin to allow for the courthouse renovations.

County Administrator Michael Johnson and Franklin City Manager Amanda Jarratt gave updates on the project at the most recent Board of Supervisors and City Council meetings, respectively.

Johnson wrote in the June 22 board meeting packet that the county conducted the mandatory pre-bid meeting on June 3.

“All five of the prospective bidders had the opportunity to walk through the courthouse, and for some of them, it was probably their first opportunity to really look at the project,” Johnson said to supervisors at their June 22 meeting.

He wrote in the board packet that the county’s invitation for bids called for submittal of bids on July 13. He added that the county was preparing to issue an addendum that would postpone the bid date by a few weeks.

“I don’t have the exact date yet, but we’re thinking sometime around the 26th, I think, of July, so about two weeks later,” he said during the meeting.

He stated that the reason for the delay is that some very minor modifications to Hunterdale Elementary School will be required in order to use it as a temporary courts building, and these modifications will be added to the contractor’s scope of work. Glavé & Holmes Architecture is in the process of preparing the plans for the minor modifications, and the county needs to allow additional time for the contractors to bid that work.

“There are some places where we’ll have to construct some small partitions for security reasons and those kinds of things,” Johnson said. “So that the general contractor can really control the project schedule, we’ve decided to issue an addendum, and we will include the improvements to the Hunterdale Elementary School in the bid for the courthouse. It’ll be broken down so you can see what’s what, but they’ll be bidding on that too so that when we award the contract, the first task of the general contractor will be to make those improvements to Hunterdale, get that ready to move the circuit court, the circuit court clerk’s office and the Commonwealth’s Attorney out of the courthouse to Hunterdale. 

“So, right now we’re thinking about 30 to 60 days, once we award that contract, to get that work done, move those folks out and then actually we’d be beginning the courthouse renovations probably October, maybe as late as early November, but hopefully sometime in October,” he added.

Johnson said the county has already signed the lease for the modular unit that will be used for the general district and juvenile and domestic relations court clerk and her staff. 

“As we had shared with you previously, we will be moving them to the modular unit, which will be set up and staged at the Franklin courthouse on that asphalt parking lot,” he said.

He wrote that the unit is expected to be delivered in the next couple of weeks.

“We’ll have approximately six to eight weeks to construct the steps, ramp and deck, install utilities, technology, telecommunications, construct counter space inside the unit and install security fencing before moving the files, furnishings and staff from Courtland to Franklin the week of Aug. 23-27,” he wrote. “The general district and J&DR courts are planning to begin hearing Southampton cases in Franklin effective Sept. 1.”

Johnson wrote that he issued the request for proposal for Special Inspection Services earlier in June, meeting a Code of Virginia requirement, and he will have those proposals back on June 30. 

“I’m also currently working with telecommunications vendors for equipment that will serve the respective courthouse employees at their temporary facilities and subsequently be removed and relocated to the renovated courthouse in 2023,” he wrote.

In a presentation on the courthouse renovation project that Johnson made in mid-March, he cited the following timeline: architectural design complete in May, receive bids in July, award construction contract in August, construction begins in September and project is complete in January 2023.

During her update at the June 28 City Council meeting, Jarratt said, “For the size and scale of this project, while we have a few weeks’ delay, it’s still very much on schedule considering all the logistics that are a part of this.

“Again, as we talked about, it does save both localities a tremendous amount of transportation cost for us to be able to utilize the Hunterdale Elementary School, as well as for the citizens that have to testify to various cases or travel for jury duty.”

In Johnson’s mid-March presentation, he pointed to a total cost of the project being $20 million, including $15.91 million for renovation and construction, $2.33 million for temporary facilities, fixtures, furnishings and equipment and $1.76 million for planning and design.

The county will be paying for $15.7 million of the project, while Franklin will pay for about $4.3 million.

Johnson indicated the scope of the work included demolition of approximately 13,000 square feet of existing courthouse support spaces; renovation of both the historic part of the courthouse built around 1834 and a portion of the 1960s addition; and addition of approximately 28,500 square feet to provide space for courthouse support functions.

The Hunterdale Elementary modifications have now been added to this list.