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Historic Courthouse Repairs Under Way

Halifax Paving Company has been working since last week correcting outside drainage problems around the historic courthouse building in Halifax.

Earlier this month, the Halifax County Board of Supervisors awarded Halifax Paving Company the contract with its low bid of $10,800.

County Administrator George Nester estimates the work will take about two weeks, weather permitting.

Water has taken a toll on the historic courthouse building, and it is in dire need of care.

Outside, telltale whitish water trails scar sections of a north and west wall of the building.

Earlier this week, a crew shored up the wall around the building because it had begun to show signs of leaning.

Delegate James Edmunds II said last week at the start of the 2010 General Assembly session he will seek state money that can be used to help repair the historic courthouse in Halifax.

Last year while Edmunds served as the Election District 5 supervisor, the state of disrepair at the courthouse was brought to the full board’s attention.

Edmunds, on a tour with fellow supervisors, saw firsthand the damage taking place at the facility, the peeling paneling, crumbling plaster and mold issues, all resulting from moisture problems.

Nester explained the courthouse grounds are very saturated because they’re holding a lot of moisture.

“This is creating problems for this old porous structure. It’s having a wick effect with the water being pulled into the building,” he added.

Bill Wolf, the county’s director of general properties, has told board members anything done to the inside of the building will be “a waste of money” until problems on the outside can be repaired.

The commonwealth has a program that allows eligible historic structures to request appropriation funding from the General Assembly, but the request has to be submitted by the delegate serving the location of the historic building.

The locality can request up to one-half of the cost of the historic structure, and the local government will be required to explain how the other half will be funded, the county administrator said.

“We have looked into possible sources,” Nester told supervisors, “and the U. S. Department of Agriculture through the former Farmers’ Home Administration does have a combination of grant and loan programs, so the opportunity to secure the funding just depends on having a cost estimate prepared by a historic architect who is familiar with the period of design and restoration of historic structures.”

According to Nester, the Halifax Courthouse was built in “a piecemeal effort” – the original courthouse was constructed circa 1823 to 1827, and the other was an addition constructed in 1906, with the annex not being eligible for this type of state funding.

Commenting from Richmond on the supervisors’ request to find funding for repairs to the courthouse, Edmunds said he doesn’t believe “there is some kitty of money sitting there waiting to be spent.

“It’s going to be difficult to sell, but I’ll certainly ask,” Edmunds said, “but the bottom line is Lacy Putney, his request for all budget amendments was that if you want money added for anything, then you need to be willing to put in an amendment declining that money somewhere else. If you pad here, you’ve got to take away there.”

Edmunds said it had been made clear that “there’s not going to be any new money coming from anywhere” during this legislative session.