By Olivia Harnack
Whitman County Gazette 

Renovations near fruition

Courthouse should may completed by mid-summer


Olivia Harnack | The Gazette

Pete Daniels and Brandy Dean take a look at the progress being made on the courthouse ceiling.

COLFAX – Renovations at the Whitman County Courthouse starting to come to fruition after about nine months of construction.

Many upgrades and features have been added including a Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant elevator, energy efficient windows and lights, among other improvements.

The project is expected to wrap up on time this summer.

"This is an energy project. We have $10 million worth of work being done," Whitman County's Facility Maintenance Director Brandy Dean said last Wednesday, May 4.

Administrative Services Director Jessica Jensema said staff is counting down the days until the $9.7 million project is ready for them to move back into the building.

"A month and three weeks out and people are excited," she said. "It's going to be a slow move and everyone is excited to get back. We are so close.

"The biggest expense was the elevator and that had to be custom-made."

There were many unknowns, she said, noting staff was concerned about skyrocketing costs due to inflation.

"Obviously, the cost of materials inflated and thankfully we started before that," Jensema said. "But when you walked into the courthouse, you used to have to walk up three stairs to go in. It was not ADA compliant."

Whitman County received an American Rescue Plan Act grant, which has assisted in costs.

"We have just been putting cash into the expense and our current ARPA expense fund covered 60%," she noted. "We were comfortably able to spend cash on it [the renovation]."

During renovations, the ceiling had to be removed due to asbestos and the lack of airflow throughout the building, she said.

"The old system did not run properly and there were many places in the court house that had zero air circulation."

Brand new windows, doors and an HVAC system have been installed to resolve that issue.

Olivia Harnack | The Gazette

Construction of a new office and meeting room is underway in the courthouse.

"This [HVAC system] will help reduce any airborne illness," she said.

The installation of the new elevator began when the initial work got underway. Currently, the courthouse has a platform - akin to a dumb waiter - which allows construction workers to travel up and down.

The new elevator will travel from the first floor across from the front entrance to the new addition "penthouse" they are building on the roof.

"They had to make the shaft bigger and pour. Right now, they are installing all the framework," Dean said.

Domestic water replacement, which includes a new water line and plumbing fixtures, has been on the docket for progress in the courthouse.

In addition, new computer/internet wiring drops and updated automated lighting has been added to the building.

Author Bio

Olivia Harnack, Editorial Intern

Olivia Harnack is the Editorial Intern and Journalist at the Whitman County Gazette. Olivia is enrolled at College for Creative Studies (Detroit, Mi.,) and is majoring in digital film studies. Olivia has previously worked with companies and organizations like TEDX, Keller Williams, and several directorial film agencies where she assisted on film sets. Olivia is in the process of enlisting in the Army National Guard and is eager to serve Whitman County.

Email: [email protected]


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