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Lancaster County is close to having a builder for a new courthouse.
County Council will soon begin negotiating a contract with BE&K Building Group of Charlotte to build the new courthouse, County Administrator Steve Willis said.
Willis, County Council Chairman Rudy Carter, Councilman Fred Thomas, Clerk of Court Jeff Hammond and Lancaster County Sheriff’s Capt. Towanna Barnes serve on a committee that has interviewed four firms for the job.
The county is using a different system to choose a contractor for the courthouse project.
Rather than bidding the project out, the county took in requests for proposals from 12 firms interested in building the courthouse.
The contractor awarded the project will work directly with the architect, Ashby Gressette of Stevens Wilkinson, to finalize the plans.
With the contractor and architect working together, this helps eliminate costly changes to the building plans later on, Willis said.
BE&K Building Group built the Inspiration Networks City of Light main building in Indian Land. It also built the Mecklenburg Police Department and Mecklenburg County Courthouse.
Chad Catledge of Lancaster’s Perception Builders will serve as a consultant for the county on the project and oversee the construction.
Grading for the new building, which will be built next to the old courthouse on Main Street, could begin in the spring or summer, Willis said. The new courthouse will be finished in about 15 months.
The new building, with an estimated cost of $33 million, will be more than
100,000 square feet, with three floors and a basement. Two-thirds of the top floor will be left as a shell, for future expansion.
Test boring has been done at the site, and officials have begun working with local utilities on the project.
Willis said seismic monitors may be used to determine whether vibrations from construction of the new courthouse affects the structure of the old courthouse, which will be restored in 2009 and possibly turned into a museum.
The old courthouse was built in 1828 and was being used as a court facility until it was set on fire by an arsonist in August.
Council already had plans to build a new courthouse with bond money before the old courthouse burned.
Voters approved a referendum in November that will add a penny to the county’s sales tax starting in May 2009 to pay back the bonds used to build the new courthouse.
Two rotting oak trees were removed on Dec. 18 from the site where the new courthouse will be built.
A $3.5 million parking garage was originally included in the plans, but Willis said he doesn’t think it will be needed. The family court building on Catawba Street will be torn down and will make room for additional parking.
Nixing the garage from the plans will help save some money, but funding will still be needed for land acquisition and building the surface parking area, Willis said.
Carter said the committee stressed that local subcontractors be used for the project, something BE&K fully supports.
“We have pushed the fact that we want the money to stay local,” Carter said.
Carter said all bids for subcontractors will be publicly opened.
“This will be as public and transparent as it can be,” he said.
Carter is looking forward to courthouse construction getting under way in the new year.
“It’s very exciting,” Carter said. “It’s my pet project. I’m thrilled beyond belief to get it into the works.”
County Council met Monday night and held an executive session to discuss the project and potential builders.
Council members did not take a vote. Willis said he hopes contract negotiations with BE&K will be finished sometime in January.
Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at email@example.com or at (803) 283-1151