DOBSON — A $532,000 project at the historic courthouse got the go-ahead from county commissioners Monday evening, and the low-bidder for the project was left on the outside looking in.
Surry County Facilities Director Don Mitchell relayed four bids for a project to replace the roof and overhaul the granite entrances at the aging structure to the Surry County Board of Commissioners.
In short, the project will replace a roof which Mitchell said is about 40 years old. It also includes masonry work which must be completed to fix the entrances in order to assure structural stability. Those entrances are comprised of large pieces of granite.
Mitchell told commissioners the low-bidder for the contract, Bill Norman Construction, failed to meet the requirements set forth in the bid package. The company’s bid was $498,625.
County Attorney Ed Woltz explained Norman offered his bid-bond in the form of a cashier’s check. However, he failed to meet a requirement to retain a performance-bond.
“It is not considered to be a responsive bid,” explained Woltz in answering a question from Commissioner Larry Johnson.
Thus, David Hill Builders Inc., another Mount Airy company, was considered the low-bidder with it’s $532,000 bid.
Mitchell told commissioners the roof included in Hill’s bid would carry a 30-year warranty. However, he said a cheaper roof, which would have no more than a 20-year warranty, could possibly be substituted to create some cost-savings.
“Has there been any estimates or bids on replacing this roof with a pitched roof?” asked Commissioner Van Tucker. “Is it feasible?”
To that Mitchell replied, “no,” explaining a pitched roof would alter the building’s appearance and could warrant removal from the national registry of historical buildings.
“It just seems like every time we talk about a roof and a problem, we are talking about a flat roof,” noted Tucker before explaining the courthouse roof wasn’t necessarily flat but had little pitch.
“Once this money is spent, I think we cross a threshold as far as keeping this building and continuing improvements versus tearing it down,” said board Chairman Buck Golding.
Golding also raised concerns about the motivation behind the plans at the historic courthouse.
Phillips noted the building has been changed architecturally in the past, notably in a renovation project which occurred during the 1970s.
“If we do these repairs, next year we will be talking about what?” asked Golding. “Are we doing this because of its usefulness, or are we keeping it for historical purposes?”
Board Vice Chairman Eddie Harris said, “We’re not throwing money away here.”
The building is structurally sound and can be used for many years following the renovation project, according to Harris.
Though the exterior project might be costly, Harris noted once renovations are complete inside, the courthouse, which houses the district attorney’s offices and juvenile justice and other court officers, will likely be able to be used for decades.
Tucker asked if any estimates were available for the interior work, a question to which he received a response in the negative.
In April of 2015, the board approved moving forward with the project to renovate the courthouse, approving a capital project ordinance and creating a capital project fund for the overhaul.
County Manager Chris Knopf said about $540,000 has been set aside in the project budget through an appropriation in the current fiscal year and the sale of county-owned property.
Mitchell said though commissioners accepted the $532,000 bid unanimously, he will work with the contractor to identify any savings which could be garnered through negotiating specific matters set forth in the bid.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.