Courthouse strategy being developed

By BRIAN GRAVES Staff Writer
Posted 10/2/17

Offices at the Bradley County Courthouse are closed today, and will probably not be doing business in the building for some time to come as the result of a weekend fire.

County Mayor D. Gary …

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Courthouse strategy being developed


Offices at the Bradley County Courthouse are closed today, and will probably not be doing business in the building for some time to come as the result of a weekend fire.

County Mayor D. Gary Davis called a Sunday afternoon meeting of the elected department heads as well as representatives from various businesses who will need to be involved as the process of bringing the courthouse back into action evolves.

The fire, which broke out Saturday morning in the building’s mechanical room, hit the nerve central for all electrical and telecommunications.

Davis said the order has been given to sheriff’s deputies not to allow anyone to enter the building except elected officials and people working, and they have maintained a guard of the property around the clock since the fire occurred.

Business at the county annex will proceed as usual.

Priority one is getting the mess cleaned up and, as was reported to Sunday’s meeting, is more extensive than first thought, and that process could take as long as two weeks.

Kyle Cuthbertson of Servpro described what his cleanup crews have found to this point.

“There is smoke and soot throughout the entire building,” Cuthbertson said. “There is fairly heavy soot on the main floor and heavy soot above the ceiling cavity above the drop ceilings.”

He added there is less water damage than was anticipated.

“The smoke damage throughout will take some time to clean top to bottom,” Cuthbertson said.

That cleanup even includes paperwork that may have been exposed which is also covered with a fine layer of soot that is almost imperceptible until one brushes against it or touches it.

“All of the ceiling tiles will need to come out,” Cuthbertson said. “They act as a sponge and it is really difficult to get the odor out of those.”

He said the carpet on the main floor, now layered with heavy soot, will most likely have to be replaced, but the upstairs carpets “will be able to be OK.”

“That’s our first impression,” he said.

He said that “obviously” there would need to be “significant repairs to the electrical work as well as the HVAC system on the main floor.”

Cuthbertson said that although the second floor saw no flames, soot was deposited through the ductwork that will need to be cleaned.

He also added “a decent amount of the ductwork on the main floor would have to be replaced.”

“That fire was in the room where the air handler was, and it was heavy inside that unit,” Cuthbertson said.

He added that as the process moves forward, there could be more damage discovered.

Asbestos testing has also been taking place during the last few days.

Currently, Servpro has been in the process of “stabilizing the building” by drying out wet spaces and cleaning debris.

Another major concern is the effect the heavy soot may have played on electronics in the courthouse, specifically computers and servers.

The functionality of many of those are still to be determined.

Davis said a review of the building’s telephone and internet connections showed they are “fried.”

“There will have to be all new cables, and that’s going to be time-consuming, I’m afraid,” he said.

Much of the timeline will now lie on the county’s contract with Energy Services Group, which was scheduled to begin extensive renovations to the courthouse’s lighting systems as well as HVAC system.

“They are the logical ones to do this because they were the ones who were going to do it anyway,” Davis said.

“I think the way that will work is to amend the contract, but they were already contracted to do a lot of this,” he said. “They will be here Monday, so we won’t know their timeline until then.”

He said in the case of the HVAC units, “those have to be built.”

All of the department heads have their software vendors in action preparing to make at least a temporary move.

All agreed the best hope is to find one building in which to house all of the necessary office space until the courthouse is ready.

Davis has called the group back into session later this afternoon when it is hoped something can be worked out where the departments can have “one move” to the temporary quarters before moving back to their regular office space in the courthouse once cleanup and repairs are completed.

“From the public’s point of view, we need to make this as simple for them as possible,” Davis said. “But, there are still a lot of unknowns,” he added.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland has offered city facilities to the county officers should they be needed.

County Clerk Donna Simpson said her office would be closed until further notice.

“I have spoken with our neighboring counties, Polk and McMinn, and they will be happy to assist with any emergent needs like tag renewals and marriage licenses,” Simpson said. “Our passports and business licenses will have to be suspended for the time being.”

Court scheduling appeared to pose the biggest problem, but Court Clerk Gayla Miller has made arrangements for today.

Miller announced late Sunday night Bradley County General Sessions Civil Court will be held at the Bradley County Juvenile Center, located at 1620 Johnson Blvd., S.E. and Bradley County Circuit Court will be held at the Logan-Thompson Law Office, located at 30 2nd St. N.W.

All criminal courts, which incorporate Bradley County General Sessions Criminal Court and Bradley County Criminal Court, will still be held at the Bradley County Judicial Complex, located at 2230 Blythe Ave., S.E.

“My staff and I will do our best to fulfill our obligations and duties to Bradley County citizens,” Miller said. “Please keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers.”

Officials said they hope a meeting scheduled by Davis for this afternoon can provide more long-term answers.

County commissioners have already announced their voting session will be held tonight at 7 p.m., in the Bradley Central High School library.


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