Henry County Board gives green light to extensive courthouse repairs

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic

The Henry County Board approved a $3.7 million plan to renovate the county courthouse roofs, HVAC, renovate the rotting clock tower, and reinstall the bell in an upgraded structure Thursday June 23.

Shey Bauer of Daikin will act as the project manger, overseeing contractors doing both the architectural and structural refurbishment of the clock tower and bell structure, roofs and HVAC installation for the courthouse and governmental-jail complex. 

Inspections revealed over 1 3/4 inches of existing roofing materials that will need to be torn off. Bauer explained that he thought the original 144 year old roof was at the bottom. Once the old material is torn off, there may be additional issues with the decorative cornices, creating additional expenses. Asbestos remediation will also take place during this process. Once the new roof is in place, the insulation or "R" value will be significantly increased, saving money in the future on heat and cooling. 

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The historic clock tower, which houses the 2,000-pound bronze bell, is also rotted, and in need of substantial reconditioning. According to Bauer, there is a concrete platform inside the clock tower structure that is supported by four concrete pillars, upon which a wooden "swingset" that holds the bell sits.  This "swingset" is rotted.

The discussion as to whether to remove the bell from the tower and display it elsewhere on the grounds, or reinstall it in the tower was had. County Administrator, Erin Knackstedt explained that the Henry County bell does not have a clapper inside, but an external striker, which causes the reverberation and the sound to come out of the bottom of the bell. In order to appreciate the historic bell's sound, it would need to be elevated. Bauer indicated it would not have additional cost to reinstall it in the tower, as the crane and other equipment would be there for the HVAC equipment installation, which is planned to go on the roof.  

Historic Henry County Courthouse
Few changes have taken place since this 1915 photo of the historic Henry County Courthouse.

Ladders are going to be added to make it easier and safer to go across various levels of the roofline.  

An additional $221,000 to add electronic locks to the PLC system was discussed. The item somehow was missed when the initial bid project was done. Currently the jail has a pneumatic locking system, and parts can no longer be obtained. The bid came in $300,000 under the estimated amount originally.

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Knackstedt explained to the board, when she came to the County three years ago, her mission was to grow the general fund in order to facilitate the extensive repairs to the county buildings. When she arrived, Knackstedt stated, the general fund was at $2.7 million, and over time, it has grown to $7.9 million.  The fact that many of the necessary repairs also qualified for the ARPA windfall also moved these projects along faster.  Once the scheduled repairs are completed, she expects the general fund to return to an estimated $2 million. No additional bonds will have been necessary to fund the repairs.