Courthouse Remodel Combines Best of Yesteryear With Modern Conveniences
After a four-year long process of planning and completing the large scale reconstruction project, the 86-year-old Richland County Courthouse has been restored to its original grandeur while taking advantage of the conveniences of today’s modern, more efficient construction.
“Every square foot was either brought back to its original condition or brought into the modern era. We have preserved history here at this courthouse and I am so proud of how it turned out,” said Duane Mitchell, County Commissioner.
A grand opening was held at the courthouse in June.
Discussions about fixing the aging courthouse had gone on for a number of years, beginning with talk of how to refurbish the high, round dome at the top of the building. The ongoing issue of the aging steam pipes snaking throughout the entire building was also a major concern as their deteriorating state was creating unfavorable conditions with heating problems, cracked windows and sewer odors. “The pipes served their purpose and just got old. We knew the building was in good shape for its age, and the decision was made to go ahead with the project. Luckily we had the money to do it,” said Shane Gorder, County Commissioner.
A feasibility study was conducted that determined the good condition of the building when Mark Rehbein, Don Steppler and Loren Young served as Commissioners.
The original building was constructed in 1927 and the county moved into it in 1928.
Today, the commons area has been restored to its original beauty and mahogany wood doors, casing on windows, and door jams run throughout every room.
Now complete, the rooms have been made larger to accommodate the higher amount of foot traffic in and out of the building. With the increase in population, it has been necessary to hire more staff and create more areas for services to be offered. With the construction of the new Justice Center, the Clerk of Court, the courtroom, the district judges and county attorney’s office are no longer located at the courthouse, but instead have their offices in the Justice Center.
The boiler heating system has been replaced by geothermal ground source heat which allows the building to remain at a constant temperature, year round. The efficiency system also prevents cold spots because the heat source is distributed evenly throughout the building. Window air conditioners are also no longer needed.
An elevator has been installed and enables greater ease for community members who need handicap accessibility to get to the second and third floors. The vault room was also completely revamped and enhanced with fireproof sheet rock to ensure the preservation of important documents. While it used to be located on the second floor, today, it is situated where the old courtroom was.
The Commissioner’s office is now located on the third floor.
The total cost to complete the project was 6.8 million once the outside aesthetics, lawn and curbs were completed and was funded through a severance tax the county receives comprised of oil revenue generated within the county.
“I enjoy meeting people in the courthouse or running into them around town and hearing their feedback. Everyone is so appreciative and thankful that we were able to restore and preserve the history of the building while enhancing it so that it can take us well into our future,” said Shane Gorder, County Commissioner.