SCHUYLER — Colfax County Courthouse visitors shouldn’t be surprised in the coming weeks to see a drone hovering above the historic building scanning the scope of damage caused by time and moisture problems.
A 3-D point cloud scan performed by a drone was part of a $25,000 proposal to study the extent of damage to the nearly century-old courthouse by Omaha-based Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture during Tuesday’s meeting of the county commissioners.
The proposed study aims to provide accurate cost information, document existing conditions, identify areas of concern and rank priorities for improvements to the exterior of the courthouse.
“I think we need to have a study,” said Chairman Jerry Heard, adding that prior presentations from Lincoln and Norfolk companies figured a courthouse face-lift could swell to as much as $500,000.
Commissioner Mike Dvorak appreciated the detail on courthouse damage that could be gathered from a drone’s mapping of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“(This study) would define the amount of what needs to be done,” Dvorak said. “For the community, we need to do it.”
Heard noted that the county is required to maintain the condition of the courthouse because of its listing as a historic building.
“We need to fix it one way or the other,” he said.
The board scheduled a vote on the study proposal for its May 24 meeting. The study could begin in three to four weeks and be completed in two to three months.
The commissioners are eyeing a December bid letting for the courthouse improvements with work to begin in the spring of 2017.
The board learned in early March a building masonry restoration would range from $380,000 to $500,000 for the courthouse that dates to July 22, 1921. A second estimate at the end of the month pegged the cost at $350,000 to $500,000.
Board members were told in March that moisture has penetrated the building’s exterior in spots, separating the bricks from the walls in spots and cracking and wearing away the glaze on the clay-based terracotta embellishments.
All four sides of the building, about 20,000 square feet in all, have been damaged over time. The west and north sides of the building have the most extensive damage, with the north side in the most severe shape.
In other business, the board learned that the electronic controls for a 26-year-old air conditioning chiller mounted on the courthouse roof are no longer available new on the market if the equipment were to break down.
“If the electronics fail today, we’d be in a world of hurt,” said Terry King, a technician with Trane Inc., which has an HVAC service contract with the county.
In case of a breakdown, King said the board could rent a chiller at a cost of $4,000 a month plus $1,500 a month for a semitrailer to mount it on; replace the existing electronic controls with modern equipment at a cost of $38,000; or buy a new chiller at a cost of about $37,000 plus an installation fee that would bump the cost to about $50,000.
The chiller is the “heart and soul” of the courthouse’s air conditioning system, Dvorak said.
Commissioner Gil Wigington said a future failure of the chiller’s controls is a predictable problem for the county. “We’ve got to do something.”
“We’ve got to bite the bullet and do something,” Heard said.
“I know that if the air conditioning goes out at home, my wife’s not happy,” he joked.
The board agreed to ask Trane to provide firmer cost estimates for the air conditioning equipment at a future meeting.
In other action, the board accepted an $836,000 bid from Kroeger Sand & Gravel of Schuyler for the county’s 2016 contract for gravel for road surfacing. Kroeger was the low bidder.
Other bidders included Arps Sand & Gravel of Schuyler, $845,000, and Marxsen Sand & Gravel of Schuyler, $870,000.