(Submitted by Macon County Mayor Steve Jones)
Renovations have started on the exterior of the Macon County Courthouse, located on the public square in Lafayette. “As you drive around the courthouse it looks like it is a very solid building, but when you get up close to it you can see on the outside, where the bricks mortar joints are falling apart and the limestone is breaking off,” said Macon County Mayor Steve Jones.
“The commissioners realized the problem and determined it needed to be dealt with,” said Mayor Jones. “Mid State Construction in Cookeville referred me to Mr. Bill Walter, a restoration specialist, with Masonry Restoration Technologies & Services, LLC, in Ohio. I contacted Mr. Walter a couple of years ago and he came down and started working on this project. We asked him to write up the specifications of what needed to be done to the courthouse to renovate it, and he brought back a restoration package for the county commissioners to review and decide what actions should be taken first.
The exterior walls are leaking water into the inside of the walls causing the inside of the exterior walls to deteriorate, said Mayor Jones. The mortar and plaster are breaking down and crumbling in the interior walls. The interior walls appear to be in a good solid condition. Bids were taken twice due to no one bidding on the project the first time we solicited bids. We were hoping to get local contractors but did not receive any bids. When the bids went out the second time, we received one bid that being from Midwestern Maintenance Inc. out of Piqua, Ohio. We bid it out to come in and restore the outside of the building. The contractor is having to remove a portion of the mortar joint from specific areas that are needing to be replaced, due to the mortar cracking up and falling out of them. To do this the contractor is having to grind out the mortar joints and then the joints will be re-tucked with a new matching mortar joint. Midwestern Maintenance, Inc. specializes in restoring historic buildings and uses all techniques trying to provide a safe working place for the citizens and employees entering the building. Unfortunately, as with any construction there is always the issue of creating a lot of dust as they grind the mortar. Once the mortar joints are ground out, they will tuck them, wash, and clean all the brick on the outside, and then they will seal the courthouse. This should stabilize the moisture coming into the building and allow the interior walls to dry out and be ready for interior repairs as needed. The roof will be evaluated, and repairs will be done as needed. Part of the repairs will include the removal of the old chimneys to stop additional leaks. The east walkway will be replaced with a more user friendly ADA walkway.
Due to the issues created with dust and debris no material work will be done in the courthouse at this time. Commissioners have talked about the possibility of finding a new location for the administrative offices due to Macon County’s growth and because most of the county offices are running out of storage space. Mayor Jones said restoring the inside of the courthouse would require moving the departments to another location while work was done.
“The courthouse is a historic place to the people in Macon County and there has never been any intent or discussion of getting rid of it,” added Mayor Jones.