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Courthouse outside to get face lift
Century-old building’s exterior to be washed, repaired
courthouse pic new web.jpg
The Barton County Commission accepted the 2018 audit report. The audit painted a good picture of the county' fiscal health. - photo by Tribune file photo

The exterior of the century-old Barton County Courthouse was last repainted in 1993. Since that time, very little additional maintenance has been done to the outside, County Administrator Phil Hathcock told the County Commission Monday morning. 

However, it was during an architectural study done last spring that WDM Architects of Wichita noted the exterior is in need of repair and moisture is infiltrating the building in certain areas, he said. To remedy this, county officials recommended hiring Fort Scott-based Mid Continental Restoration at a cost of $160.126 to power wash, replace caulking, repair failed mortar joints and trim work and apply two coats of sealant coating. 

“The courthouse has seen better days,” Hathcock said. It turned 100 years old last year and is showing its age, and the county has been looking at what needs to be done, some costly, and coming up with a plan to make the needed repairs.

“This is a lot of money,” he said. “But we need to perform this to maintain our courthouse.”

Now, plaster is popping off and falling from the inside walls on the fourth floor, and some of the decorative features are cracking and falling of the exterior. These, and other problems, are caused by the water, Hathcock said.

The last total overhaul of the facility’s outside took place in 1984. Some minor repairs were made in 2001.

“This is the first of two or three phases to get this building where it needs to be,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. “We gave to get the exterior fixed before we do the interior.”

“We’re finally at the point where we can start fixing these things,” commission Chairwoman Alicia Straub said. 

Although here is no specific timeline for the work,  Hathcock said it would likely begin in the late spring when the weather improves. How long it will take is not known either.

“It’s going to be an extensive project,” he said. It will involve scaffolding to be set up around the building.


In February of last year, a crew from Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita took soil samples. WDM was hired to do an architectural study and structural analysis to determine what needs to be done, and it contracted with PEC to do the coring.

That was the last piece of the puzzle. WDM had already looked at the interior of the courthouse and a report outlining recommendations was submitted to county officials.

Referring to this report, Hathcock said the new roof and the structural issues will likely be at the top of the list.   

The four corners of the courthouse have begun to separate from the center of the building, causing cracks to form and plaster to fall on the fourth floor. Repairs done in the past, including turnbuckles installed to pull the corner walls together, are proving to be unsuccessful.

One hundred years of settling is part of the issue. But, WDM believed water running off the roof is softening the soil and expediting the deterioration.

That is why the drainage must be corrected, officials said. County crews have already cleaned some drain pipes and rerouted some downspouts to channel water away from the building.

As for the structure, a possible solution is to use additional turnbuckles, only tying the exterior walls to the floor. Replacing the roof is also vital, he said, adding water is seeping into the building. 

There is also a window in the commission chambers cracking due to settling. In addition, there have been pipes burst and other problems.

Some history 

Construction actually started in November of 1917 and it was expected to be done by November of 1918. The start of the project was delayed at first because the previous courthouse built on the same site in 1874-75 had not been razed on time.

By Dec. 18, 1918, the courthouse was finished. The first trial, a divorce case, had taken place the day before.

The original building had an outside staircase leading up to what was considered the first floor. That was removed in 1952.

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance:

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Reviewed and approved the county emergency operations plan.

The Kansas Planning Standards provided the requirements for Kansas Division of Emergency Management approval of county emergency operations plans, Emergency Manager Amy Miller said. As per state statutes, approval requirements for the basic plan, all emergency support functions, appendixes, and specific annexes be reviewed and reapproved by KDEM every five years. 

Miller said Barton County Emergency Management submitted an updated Emergency Operations Plan to KDEM in December 2018, and received approval, pending formal adoption by the Barton County commissioners.

Now the plan will be submitted to the KDEM

• Approved the county’s agreement to treat noxious weeds for the Kansas Department of Transportation-managed right-of-ways.

The Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson has submitted an agreement to treat noxious weeds on KDOT rights-of-way in Barton County. Included in the contract is a price of $24 per hour for operator and $51 per hour for the spray vehicles. Also detailed is how work shall be recorded and what chemicals may be used, said County Works Director Darren Williams.

The rate is the same as it was last year.

• Heard and approved the county’s noxious weed eradication report.

Noxious weeds are one of the greatest threats to the Kansas environment, County Works Director Darren Williams said. They displace native plant species, interfere with the production of agricultural crops, increase erosion, destroy wildlife habitat and decrease property values. 

The Kansas Department of Agriculture is responsible for laws aiding in the control and management of noxious and invasive weeds in Kansas, he said. So, in keeping with this, the KDA requires Kansas counties to submit an Annual Noxious Weed Eradication Progress Report.  

• Approved hiring Fort Scott-based Mid Continental Restoration at a cost of $160,126 to power wash and repair the exterior of the courthouse.

• Heard a departmental update from County Administrator Phil Hathcock.