|Washington County courthouse one of the 10 most endangered historic sites in Indiana|
The Washington County Courthouse got an important distinction that could help the county secure grant funds for needed repairs.
Greg Sekula, director of the Indiana Landmarks, told the commissioners at their regular meeting May 10 the courthouse is moved to the listing of the 10 most endangered places.
“Our hope is that the 10 most designation will help facilitate efforts locally to raise funds for the necessary repairs to the courthouse. I know there is already an effort underway to establish a local fund.”
John Mead, Jeremy Elliott and Randall Bills are working to establish a fund.
“Hopefully, the net can be expanded beyond Washington County to assist with repairs,” Sekula said.
On another note, Sekula encouraged the commissioners to hire an architect to over see work done by BJB, Inc. as a result of a settlement reached with the county.
“While I applaud the county for trying to resolve that issue and move forward, I think having read the agreement, I have concerns,” he said. “One of them relates to the lack of specificity in the agreement as to standards for rehabilitation, particular like mortar mixture that’s going to be used.
“. . . I do think it would be prudent to hire a restoration supervising architect that could be made available to the county to provide oversight and assistance to you.”
Commissioner David Brown said, “We’ve already had two engineering firms who are very familiar with the type of mortar mix and the federal guidelines. One was $90,000 for a complete study. We will work very closely with BJB. I would say between BJB and the study that was done previously, I think we are in pretty good shape.
“It’s just a monumental task to try to fix a 200-year-old building back exactly the way it was.”
Brown agreed that it would be a good idea to have a consultant on stand-by to oversee BJB to make sure everything meets federal requirements.
The courthouse discussion brought about the discussion of another historical sight in Washington County, the Beck’s Mill Bridge.
Repairs on that bridge will likely take place in 2017, according to Brown.
The bridge is estimated to cost $750,000 with the state covering 80 percent and the county being responsible for 20 percent.
“I know people will say why in the world would you spend that kind of money and put a single lane bridge back,” Brown said. “It’s just that’s the way it was and that’s the way it has to be done. Those are two big projects (courthouse and bridge) we will need some financial help with.”
Sekula encouraged the county to apply for a new round of grants to help with historical sites.
“In late September and early October, the division of Historic Preservation and Archeology will be announcing its new round of matching grant funds for brick and mortar work,” he said. “I recommend the county consider developing a project for that. For example the tower restoration work might be a good project to consider. It’s up to $50,000, but you have to have $50,000 in place. It can be internal or external. It’s one of the few for bricks and mortar work. I would think the courthouse would be a strong contender for grant funds.”
Sekula said applications for the grant will be due in the fall and grants will be rewarded until January.
Brown said both the Beck’s Mill bridge and the courthouse are high priority projects, but the courthouse gets top priority.
The commissioners’ next meeting will be Tuesday, June 7 at 9 a.m. at the Washington County Government Building.