Courthouse renovation experiences delay

Published 6:16 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

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The Southampton County Courthouse renovation project has encountered a conflict that has ultimately added about three months to its construction schedule.

Michael W. Johnson

Both Southampton County Administrator Michael W. Johnson and Franklin City Manager Amanda C. Jarratt have provided reports on the project that have conveyed insight on the conflict along with other details.

At the June 13 City Council meeting, Jarratt reported that interior framing and layout, rough-in electrical and rough-in plumbing continues in the 1960s addition to the courthouse. The excavation of the new elevator pit in the 1960s addition is now complete. A storm sewer installation continues at the front of the site.

Johnson, in his report during the Southampton County Board of Supervisors’ May 24 meeting, said, “As I shared with you all last month, on April the 1st, Heartland (Construction Inc.) encountered a conflict with the primary electrical cable that feeds the electrical transformer at the rear of the property. That transformer serves both the courthouse and the sheriff’s office and jail, and when I say conflict — they hit it. It was about nine feet away from where Dominion Energy had marked it with their utility marking.

“So the issue now is, now (that) we know where it is, it actually conflicts with the elevator pit and the foundation for the new addition on the building on that corner, so it has really put the contractor at almost a standstill,” Johnson added.

In a written staff report, Johnson stated that this conflict requires Dominion Energy to redesign and relocate its primary and associated transformers. It has taken DE six weeks to complete the redesign, and it is further expected to take DE an additional six weeks to schedule relocation of the cable. 

Johnson noted that this matter has radically altered Heartland’s planned sequence of construction, and Heartland has provided him with a written notice of delay, in accordance with the contract documents. He stated that he anticipates receiving an updated construction schedule from Heartland once Dominion completes the relocation.

“At the end of the day, we’ve just got to work through it, but it is going to cost us in round numbers about three months on the construction schedule,” he told supervisors. “So now, rather than April 2023, you’re probably looking at July of 2023, finishing the project.”

He also noted that excavation during the renovation process has revealed deteriorating masonry on the back corners of the 1834 courthouse. Temporary stabilization has been provided via wooden timbers, and historic masonry was salvaged during demolition for the permanent repairs. 

“At this writing, this is not expected to adversely impact project cost or schedule,” Johnson stated in the staff report.

He also highlighted three change orders he has authorized to address matters beyond the scope of the contract documents that have arisen since work on the project commenced, but he characterized these changes as “relatively minor.”

“With the exception of a small sum for additional asbestos abatement at the courthouse, these changes were all related to additional work needed at Hunterdale Elementary to better facilitate use of the facility for court proceedings,” he wrote. “The cumulative sum of all project change orders is currently less than $70,000 (0.32% of the overall construction contract) and will be funded with the project contingency set aside in the project budget (7.5% of the overall construction contract).”

Amanda C. Jarratt

Both Johnson and Jarratt concluded their reports by noting that Southampton County had processed the first six pay applications and paid the contractor roughly $3.2 million.

Ward 3 Councilman Gregory McLemore asked Jarratt to remind him what the estimated cost for the courthouse renovation project was to the city.

“It’s just over $5 million for our estimated share,” she said. “So we borrowed $4.8 (million) already, and then, remember, we took the Global Concentrate money, and we restricted that to pay for the difference so we don’t have to borrow any more money.”

She later clarified that the Global Concentrate money being referenced was not from tax revenue but from the sale of land in the Pretlow Industrial Park to Global Concentrate, a New Jersey-based supplier for traditional and organic fruit and vegetable juice concentrates and more.